John White’s final days or rabbit trick waiting to happen?

John White’s final days or rabbit trick waiting to happen?

Those who follow k-12 education in Louisiana closely know about state supt. John White and his illusionist tricks.  There have been several times over the last few years I expected John to hightail it out of here, only to see him double down on his egregious and dishonest behavior and come out stronger than before each crisis.  Amazing and mystifying, but he is a true magician.

In the last BESE (BESE is the State School Board responsible for hiring and firing the state superintendent) election John White’s out-of-state billionaire supporters (led by education crime syndicate boss and chairman of LABI, Lane Grigsby) poured millions into the race to save his lying ass from getting canned for all the atrocious, dishonest, and antagonistic behavior he’s exhibited over his entire tenure as State Sup and local Sup of the New Orleans Recovery School District.

White even received some national notoriety (and praise) for “standing up” to Governor Bobby Jindal over the issue of Common Core State Standards. While this dispute may have been staged for the benefit of Jindal’s National presidential ambitions from the outside it looked like Jindal was really giving White a hard time.

(Fighting something controversial is a good way to stay in the media – see Donald Trump’s entire campaign – but actually resolving issues has a way of removing that spotlight so I don’t believe Jindal actually wanted to resolve the Common Core issue.)

Jindal is now leaving office in disgrace, unable to become more than a sad footnote in this presidential race, unable to extricate the state from Common Core, leaving a mortgaged state in shambles with a budget held together by rusty screws and tattered, generic Scotch tape, and a gaping multi-billion dollar deficit for years to come for governor elect John Bel Edwards.

Whatever the truth, Jindal looks like Tweedle-dum, and White looks like the Cheshire cat that ate that rat.  John White has the effect on people.

John White’s fortunes may be looking up.  Grigsby and his corporate education cabal managed to snare 7 of 8 elected BESE seats through lies, trickery, false promises and outrageous SuperPAC spending.  4 very vocal critics of White will be gone from BESE by the January meeting and he will have 7 solidly purchased allies in his pocket (and in the pocket of the charter industry who purchased their seats.)

John White was obviously feeling his oats at the December 1st BESE meeting where he routinely interrupted and spoke rudely and condescendingly to the outgoing members and only provided materials to members to review on the day of the meeting, prompting at least one citizen to publicly chastise the board for their lack of decorum and preparation.  White was even rude and combative to citizens providing testimony at the meeting.

(As usual, every one of John White’s recommendations was rubber-stamped by his accomplices on the board.)

Not exactly the actions of someone who feels they may be at the end of their rope.

Governor elect Edwards will appoint 3 members, and the 8th elected official, Kathy Edmonston, is an ally of mine, an NPE endorsed candidate, and a staunch opponent of all things John White, and John White himself.

 (As an interesting note, I learned John White and outgoing BESE district 6  representative Chas Roemer audaciously tried to butter Edmonston up right after the election, but she was having none of that foolishness.  After their allies manipulated video of Kathy to  accuse her of being an idiot who wants an illiterate America I predict it’s unlikely she will be coming around to their side anytime soon.)

As Dr. Mercedes Schneider discovered and covered in her blog, John White’s contract ends with the new terms of BESE and the Governor. It also requires 8 votes to approve a contract.  Governor elect John Bel Edwards has consistently insisted he wants John White gone, and will do anything in his power to see that happen.

I do not believe John White can stay as Superintendent of Education while I am Governor. And to the extent that I can control that, that will not happen. Because I do not find him to be honest and credible when he deals with the legislature and other members of the public in Louisiana.
I know, for example, from some of his dealings with me, and some of the things he has said about me.
We know he went into a Senate Education Committee meeting with the intended purpose of muddying the water as opposed to telling the truth. He did it to promote a bill that was patently unconstitutional, that he had to have known was unconstitutional: funding vouchers through the Minimum Foundation Program. That is a problem for me.

(From where I stand there is no way John White can reach the 8 vote threshold on an 11 member board.  Other LDOE personnel under contract immediately cease to work there when their contract expires.  I would have expected the same to happen here although it sounds like White will remain as a month to month employee under the terms of his original contract per Dr. Schneider’s blog.)

Moreover I have been assured by another longtime source that not all of Grigsby/LABI’s backed 7 approve of John White and will vote to keep him.  If that is true White is sitting at 6 or fewer votes of the required 8 he needs to keep his job.

(I have discussed working with the new administration to target those staffers loyal John White’s lies and not to Louisiana’s children with members of John Bel’s campaign prior to the election.  I hope they end up in a position to take me up on that offer.)

However another longtime source has revealed John White is claiming to his staff that he has the required 8 votes he needs.

OH- JW has told some staffers that he has 8 votes (that would mean Edmiston is in his pocket) AND – he will remain as superintendent.This may simply be another of John White’s lies meant to keep his staff from staging a mass exodus.

I disagree that White has Edmonston in his pocket, however White is a wiley bastard and his allies have deep pockets and no fear of employing lies or deceit to get what they want. Another possibility is that Edwards has offered BESE positions already to some folks who are planning on betraying him and his wishes on keeping John White.

I have not been contacted by the transitional Edwards administration despite offering my services on multiple occasions, although some 53 others have been contacted and appointed to a k-12 advisory committee. One of the members of this advisory committee is a former BESE member,  a well connected and wealthy New Orleans Democrat, claims to be the RSD architect, and is a staunch John White supporter named Leslie Jacobs.

This is a concern for me and I would hope her role remains limited as she is a proponent of everything John Bel has claimed he is against.

Obviously this is making me a little nervous as the time approaches for Edwards to take office and make his appointments.  I chose to back Edwards in the last election in large part for his history and stances on education issues and don’t wish to have to turn that support to withering scrutiny so early in his term, but I haven’t fought this long just to see a new administration support the same bad people and terrible ideas.

I have a much longer history keeping an eye on White than just about anyone in this state and I know he’s slicker than WD40 smeared on an icy lake.  The Edwards administration doesn’t have to contact me of course.  (Who am I to them after all?) However I don’t see many of my allies on his list of 53 nor have many of my allies who have exposed White’s corruption been contacted.   I’m not looking for a pat on the back, but to make sure they are equipped with enough info to pry White out of his dank DOE hole.  They don’t have to contact me, but they damn well better be successful in getting rid of him if they don’t.

I would like to offer a word of caution to Edwards’ transition team since they appear disinclined to contact me at this time.  White is covering for a lot of demons and hiding a lot of skeletons at LDOE. Don’t expect his allies to give him up without a fight or for him to go quietly.  Don’t squander this opportunity for real change and transparency.  If you let him stay he will stab you in the ass, just like he did to Jindal, and he’ll enjoy it immensely.  K-12 education may not be your top priority compared to the budget crisis and planned Medicare expansion, but it may be your downfall if you’re not careful.

White always seems to have just the right rabbit to pull out of his hat at just the right moment.

Fortunately I still a few tricks left up my sleeves as well. . .

 

JW_Rabbit
Beat that, Copperfield.
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Education Reform in Louisiana: A PAC of Lies and Liars.

Education Reform in Louisiana: A PAC of Lies and Liars.

It’s been a few weeks since the final BESE elections wrapped up in Louisiana.

(BESE is Louisiana’s elected state school board. The board as 8 elected positions and 3 appointed by the Governor and is responsible for setting policy for all public schools, private schools, charter schools and homeschool programs in the state as well as defining the MFP, a funding formula for public schools. A BESE position does not come with a salary but does provide a small stipend and a laptop or iPad to communicate with the state e-mail system using the state assigned e-mail address.

BESE meets every other month for 2 days for regularly scheduled meetings and as needed for emergency agenda items. It’s not a glamorous job, no salary, no staff, a lot of filing/qualifying requirements and red tape, and a lot of public scrutiny – but that hasn’t prevented it from becoming the most contentious and expensive position in the state, second only to the Governor’s position in Louisiana.)

The 2015 elections were something of a watershed moment for Louisiana. It was the first year BESE board candidates opposing destructive Education Reform were able to unify across parties, geography (and any other line you can think of) and work to fight against the lies and money of the Ed Reform machine.  Education Reform is sold on the backs of lies about “success”, lies about goals of opponents, and through the perpetuation of firmly discredited myths.

This year, however, the lies and dishonesty were of absurd, even epic proportions; even for politicians; even for politicians from Louisiana!

The Ed Reform movement didn’t just lie, they built a campaign machine that ran on the exact diametric opposite of reality.

I will show several examples of how this looks and what it means in the next few posts on this subject. Fortunately I was able to document some of these lies to call people out over the years that follow, and for you, the public, to hold them to their pledges (or admit they were lying POS.)

Here is a commercial Lane Grigsby’s Empower PAC ran against one of the FlipBESE candidates I supported in the 2015 elections.  This was run against a veteran of the Ascension Parish school system who works with children with disabilities, and their families, named Kathy Edmonston.

When I talked to Kathy about this commercial she was quite upset. The extras they use in this video make her out to be an idiot as did the hundreds of thousands of dollars in mailers sent out by local education reform mobster, Empower PAC founder and LABI chairman, Lane Grigsby.  This was just one piece of a out of state billionaire funded coordinated campaign to take part of statement she said during and interview completely out of context and claim she did not believe children should be taught to read or perform math until the third grade.

I suppose the depression era black and white photo of gloomy kids is supposed to represent outdated thinking?  I’m not really sure that was a belief back then, but they get points for using some ridiculous over-the-top scare tactics.  (FYI, Ascension Parish is one of our top rated school districts in the state by the ed reformers own grading scale, so I’m pretty sure they must be doing something right.)

Kathy provided the video where Empower and Grigsby chose to libel and slander her education stands from a Frances and Friends broadcast.

(Frances and Friends is a Christian television show on the SonLife network.  Bearing false witness against a Christian television show?  It doesn’t get much classier than that.)

If you listen to the clip, Kathy Edmonston actually says the complete opposite of Grigsby and his Empower PAC (funded by Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, Jim and Alice Walton) are claiming. She says it essential that kids learn to read and write before third grade and that most of our early efforts should go towards ensuring that goal.  Her observation and critique was that, under Common Core, many kids are getting to third grade unable to read or do simple math.

Selling the exact opposite of the truth: Education Reform’s specialty.

The Education Reform movement is a group of PACs and corporately funded puppet organizations that sell lies to the public.  They lie about their “successes”; they lie about their failures; they lie to create faux failures for others; they lie to support their agenda and attack their detractors to prevent any adult conversations or real critical analysis of their claims from happening.

When I met with Grigsby earlier this year to try and discuss his views and our differences candidly he told me that he doesn’t believe in Democracy because politicians can get entrenched and corrupted as he believes happened in New Orleans.  Lane explained to me that all that really matters these days is who has the most money and who can tell the most convincing lie.

I believe he proved that to be true for the most part in this election cycle.  That may be the most honest thing he’s said to anyone about politics and his worldview in a while. Grigsby and his allies poured more than 4 million dollars worth of lies into this year’s BESE races and won 7 out of the 8 elected seats that prior to the charter school movement were won for less than 10k.

This money is flowing here from supporters, and investors, of/in the charter school industry.  Whether you are a charter supporter or not, it is clear that money from the charter industry has drowned out any voices but their own.  Combine that fact with the compulsive and absurd lying, like that shown here, and you can see why all forms of education (not just public) are really facing a crisis these days. The Education Reform movement has created a real crisis with their policies to replace the faux crisis they sold their new policies on in the first place.

I’m not sure if that is irony, a self-fulfilling prophecy, or maybe just good business?

What I do know is that Education Reform responsible for teaching our kids all the wrong things, both in school, and outside of school by their example.

Unfortunately it’s not just children who are being taught very destructive things.  We are also teaching adults to disrespect Democracy and to defecate on truth as well.

 

 

 

How John White Will Use His Own Failures to Sink Governor Elect John Bel Edwards (If he stays on)

I have been writing for years about the numerous ways John White has been lying about the “progress” his agenda has brought the state of Louisiana.  White has inflated the graduate rate, inflated the matriculation rate, depressed the dropout counts, flipped the LEAP and End of Course test scores to show Louisiana students are doing better,  while they are actually doing much worse, sheltered RSD and charter schools from investigations, wiped out the Special Education department and forced his employees to commit fraud to keep their jobs on a routine basis and violated federal laws and policies in regards to funding allocations, shared data illegally with third party vendors and researchers that only favor his agenda while withholding data from independent researchers (for years) costing the state many thousands of dollars in litigation fees.  These are just a few of the underhanded and unethical practices John White has engaged in on a regular basis.  White even has one of his former lieutenants in place on the State’s board of Elementary and Secondary Education.  All of this bodes ill for John Bel if he is not able to remove John White promptly, and properly audit, recalculate and re-report the previous years’ fraudulently prepared education data.

John White has quietly amassed an enormous power base in Louisiana.  He has legislators, superintendents, super Pacs, LABI (Louisiana Association of Business and Industry run by a Grigsby figurehead), APEL  a pseudo teachers union run by a LABI/Grigsby promoted figurehead, The Times Picayune editorial board, The Advocate editorial board and management, Teach for America (who also has a BESE member, Kira Orange Jones that will support White unquestioningly), Stand for Children (run by a former White/LDOE staffer) ,CABL, BAEO (run by a former White/LDOE staffer), DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), and Lane Grigsby in his back pocket. That’s just to name of few of his instate supporter power players and organizations.

White also has the ability to draw down millions of dollars from out of state ed reform minded billionaires to wage war on John Bel Edwards on his behalf.  Billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, Jim and Alice Walton, that spent millions defaming BESE candidates across the state (for unpaid positions) in the recent elections.  Unless John Bel wants to turn his entire education agenda over to these groups, he will be unendingly assailed by them throughout his term.  He will probably be attacked even then because:

  • LABI would like to find a way to remove him and put someone loyal to them on every issue.
  • John Bel have to renege on his promises to do something about John White, Common Core, and the corruptions and malfeasance at LDOE.

The latter would alienate many of the folks  I rallied to support him based on the belief JBE would have our backs.

LABI and these other groups would still angle to remove John Bel with outrageous lies and misrepresentations, like they did for so many of the BESE candidates in the last elections.

The most diabolical aspect of this is; John White could simply agree to everything John Bel asks him to do, he could cooperate in every way, and he could even release the actual data starting from day one of John Bel’s term.  Unfortunately, this would prove disastrous.

John White has built an enormous and unfounded success data bubble.  If this pops only during John Bel’s term in office, and the scores are not properly recalculated for previous years, it will be an easy claim to make and support, that:

  • John Bel ruined education in Louisiana.

I expect White and his staff, along with Lane Grigsby and Bridgette Nieland with LABI, are working on some plan like this right now at LDOE to propose to John Bel and his leadership team.

This will be a poisoned olive branch, much like the Common Core compromise turned out to be for actual anti-Common Core BESE candidates this fall.  LABI’s candidates also claimed to be against Common Core, and for Louisiana Standards.  They sent out mailers proudly proclaiming their disdain for Common Core, support for high standards, and embracement of the Common Core compromise.  Some BESE candidates, like the re-elected Holly Boffy, even ludicrously claimed to have led the fight against Common Core, while actually getting paid by CCSSO to support and promote it as a paid consultant.

Truth has no meaning to these people.  Lane Grigsby actually met with me and told me he was tired of all the education politics and was going to be sitting out getting heavily involved this year.  Instead he raised millions of dollars to launch misleading, continuous, and deceitful attack ads on his opponents while also donating and having all of his friends and family donate the maximum allowable amount to the candidates he supported.  Based on the similarity of all the produced commercials and mailouts for all 9 candidates he supported it is very likely he had a hand in running both candidates actual campaigns as well as the Super Pac that also promoted them.  This type of coordination is theoretically a no-no, but I have yet to hear of anyone ever sanctioned in any way for doing this.

I would recommend getting knowledgable and outspoken critics of John White and Common Core placed on the board as his appointees – from different political parties.  Fortunately there are quite a few great candidates for these jobs available – still sore from the lies John White and his allies used to assail them.  Motivation for counter-attacking and applying pressure to John White should not be an issue for these folks, as they already have lengthy track records in putting  students, teachers and parents before corporations and firsthand experience at how these shady folks work. I would also recommend putting someone like me in charge of education policy or LDOE’s IT department, which is now a division of DOA and not beholden to John White – thanks to Jindal’s statewide IT reorganization.  The governor has complete authority over DOA.  Once John White is removed, most of his unclassified executive staff should be jettisoned as well.  I would also recommend putting someone in charge of RSD who is not Patrick Dobard or his second in command.  I have had reports that Dobard’s mission is to acquire as many schools from as many districts as quickly as possible so they can be turned over to charter operators.  He has even expressed dismay when traditional public schools run by local school districts improve, because that puts a wrench in his plan to acquire them.  John White’s and Patrick Dobard’s mission is to eventually take over all public schools in Louisiana and run them from a statewide agency as a charter portfolio.

Baton Rouge is actually slated to be their next target for mass charter invasion and takeover.  It has been reported to me that before Edwards assumes office, on the December 2nd 2015 agenda, BESE is expected to vote to approve New Schools for Baton Rouge (run by a former LDOE executive staffer) as a type B1 charter authorizer.  This means the state board will vote to completely bypass local EBR school board authority in charter decisions and hand it over to a private, unelected organization to approve as many charter schools as they want, anywhere in the city, as New Schools for New Orleans does in New Orleans.  Next up will be New Schools for Lafayette, New Schools for Lake Charles, New Schools for Shreveport, and finally New Schools for Louisiana as they finally bypass local school boards entirely.

These folks never sleep.  It is important to get ground game going as soon as possible, because 4 years will go by before you know it.

 

Kathy Edmonston Needs Your Vote

Tomorrow Louisiana goes to the polls to elect their new Governor, Lieutenant Governor, but also BESE members for districts 6 and 4.

Kathy Edmonston is running to represent the people and children of district 6.

Her opponent, Jason Engen, is running to represent business and industry, as he explained in his own words.

The Hayride first asked Engen why he’s running for BESE. He says he’s in the race because no one represented the business side who he calls the end user of the education system.

And business and industry are supporting Engen to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, most of which is used to smear his opponent and to mislead the public about his views.  Engine claims he is against Common Core and for local control.  Engen even claims he wants to reject the status quo in his advertisements, but when you ask him what that means. . .

The Hayride asked Engen what are the major issues he was running on in this campaign. “To me the most important one is we’ve seen some reforms kick in over the last few years that I think we need to maintain and to the extent possible we need to maintain.” said Engen.

. . . it means maintain the status quo . A status quo that has seen our NAEP scores plummet for the first time in more than 20 years.  A status quo that doesn’t only promote, but even worships Common Core and embraces all of its glaring flaws as “rigor”.

To Jason Engen, local control means forcing Common Core and PARCC tests upon homeschool parents.

The Hayride asked Engen about homeschooling and whether he supported further regulating them. While he supports homeschooling, he supports subjecting them to high standards similiar to what public and private schools are subjected it.

Jason Engen contacted me via text message last month because he wanted to complain about my blog posts about him.  At that time I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.  Some he answered and vehemently denied, some he chose not to answer.  I will leave you to determine what that means.

Did Grigsby promise to pay for your kids to go to private school if you do his bidding? I know he told you that John White stays, regardless of what he’s done. . . [Me]

Have a good day.  The point was to leave each other’s kids out of it. [Engen]

Will there be magical scholarships from a mysterious benefactor?  You will be ruining public schools so you won’t want to send your kids there under your “leadership” [me]

Just tell me  he didn’t make White’s staying a condition of his support.  When he brags about it to folks later it might make you look bad. . . [me]

Engen’s backers are intent upon taking rights away from parents and destroying public schools.  Based on his ethics report filings Engen does not seem to make enough money to enroll his 3 children in private school by his this wife, and 4th child by an earlier wife, on his lone salary.  (His current wife does not work.)  Engen’s primary benefactor of both his campaign and the SuperPac that supports him is Cajun Industries CEO and LABI chairman, Lane Grigsby, whom I spoke with earlier this year.

Lane explained to me at that time that he was a great champion of  poor kids and that he “personally paid for a number of scholarships for those people that can’t seem to take care of those kids they keep making” to attend private schools.  In his opinion this meant he cared more about education than anyone else and he must be making the right decisions for the right reasons about education.

I figured, what would a few more scholarships be to a guy who pays for so many already?  But Engen refused to respond to this question so I left him with these thoughts and a promise.

I know this is all fun and games and career advancement opportunities to you, but you are not leaving my kids out of it.  Supporting this agenda, driving off their teachers, bankrupting their school district, forcing ridiculous PARCC tests down their throats. That pisses me off.  That pisses a lot of people off.  You have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into, but I think you may very well find out Saturday night. [Me]

Don’t expect me or other parents to ever stop defending our kids from you and your ignorance and recklessness. [Me]

Kathy Edmonston needs your vote to send a message to all the Engen’s and Grigsby’s out in the world that some of us can’t be bought.

Kathy needs your vote to protect our children and save our schools.

Kathy needs your vote to be one of our lone voices on BESE.

Please do what you can tomorrow to ensure Kathy wins and Engen fades back into obscurity.

Your vote tomorrow is what I expect at the very least. But what we need is for you to make sure all of your friends and relatives vote for Kathy tomorrow too.  Please do your part to help Kathy.  Help us defeat those like Engen, who will trample on our rights and do irreparable harm to our children and communities in the years to come.

We need you.

(P.S.  if you live in district 4, the Caddo/Shreveport area, please do the same to help Mary Harris. Her opponent, Tony Davis, is every bit as deceitful as Engen and we need them both on BESE to replace the great champions for public education and Louisiana children, Carolyn Hill and Lottie Bebee, that we lost in October.)

Thanks

 

What’s Wrong with Education in Louisiana and Some Ideas On How to Fix it

Louisiana Voters,

 

A few months ago I had a meeting with Lane Grigsby about my candidacy for BESE.

For those of you who don’t know, Grigsby is one of the chief funders of the education reform movement in Louisiana. Investigative journalist Lee Zurik did a multi-segment story on corruption in Louisiana politics called Louisiana Purchased, and he discovered that Grigsby, owner of Cajun Industries and one of the chief supporters of LABI (the pro-privatization business lobby) was one of the most prolific funders of political candidates in Louisiana and was able to bypass many of the individual spending limits by having family members, PACs he formed, and as many as 17 companies he owned or controlled donate the maximum allowable amount to candidates he was supporting.

 

I wasn’t seeking funding. I was seeking some understanding of why he was getting involved in education and why he held the stands and beliefs he did. (Grigsby apparently didn’t know who I was which is why he agreed to meet with me. I knew I was diametrically opposed to him on almost every issue.)

 

While we disagreed on almost everything in our meeting, Lane brought up a very important point that I was overlooking.

“Besides kicking out John White, what are you actually going to do to improve education in Louisiana?”

My focus had been on fighting the BESE board, LDOE, and returning ownership of the public education system to the people of Louisiana.  I hadn’t really considered what I would do if I was placed in a position where I could actually work to improve things!

For the past two months I have been doing much less talking and writing and much more listening and analyzing.  This is probably not going to win me more votes, but getting elected is not really the most important thing, is it?  Improving our education system and the outcomes of our children and thus the future of our people and our state is a much more important long-term goal.

Win or lose the upcoming election, I believe I’ve already accomplished my short-term mission of showing how ordinary people can get involved with their government to try and make things better.

 

But let’s get back to the whole improving education part.

 

Despite all the “reforms” Louisiana has undertaken over the past decade our outcomes really haven’t improved all the much, now have they?

10 years ago Louisiana was in a 5 way tie for 44th place (out of 52 States + DC + territories) on the NAEP exam for 4th grade Mathematics. (NAEP is a long term national test used for comparing states to each other and to themselves longitudinally.

NAEP2004

For a snapshot of what this lack of growth looks like over time, refer to the chart below. Notice how the gap between Louisiana and the rest of the country has only widened under the current administration and their misguided policies.

NAEP2004graph

In 2013, Louisiana was just 2 tenths of one point (out of 500), ahead of Mississippi. We’ve actually lost a lot of ground compared to other states, despite the continuous claims of success issued by Lousiana’s state Education Board, Governor Jindal – now finishing up the 8th year of his term consecutive terms and running for President, and the Louisiana Department of Education – which both implemented the reforms and then internally evaluated itself on them. When the 2015 NAEP scores are released I expect Louisiana will have finally accomplished the unthinkable, allowing Mississippi to pass us up and thereby becoming the lowest academically performing state in the nation. That will be quite a first.

All of this lack of progress was achieved despite numerous reformers we were promised would work, and are continuously told are working – based on internal metrics the LDOE manipulates every year internally to collect kudos for their achievement and to buy more time for their allies in the private sector that many top executives at LDOE have previously worked for, or hope to work for someday.

Over the past decade we were told:

  1. Charter schools will solve everything with market driven incentives! 
    1. Charter have some anecdotal success, but many perform much worse than the public schools the replace.
    2. More than 10% of our students are enrolled in charter schools.
    3. Either the presence of charter schools are driving down the performance of traditional schools
    4. Or charter schools are performing so poorly they are offsetting the gains of traditional schools.
    5. The “best” charter schools by test scores, are usually simply the best at keeping the wealthiest students and most involved families engaged.  This is why Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies build new schools in brand new secluded and pricy subdivisions like and refuse to provide busing.
    6. Lafayette illustrates another facet of charter behavior: the bait and switch. Charters are advertised as a way to help out or replace struggling schools. Lafayette Parish, one of the top school districts in the state, had some schools in poorer areas that were not performing well.
      1. “However, the shiny new schools were built about as far away from the poorest communities as they could be. Charter Schools USA opened up two charters in new housing developments named Sugar Pond Mills and Couret Farms, which sell new shotgun-style houses on small lots of land for as much as half a million dollars each.
      2. These schools are theoretically open to the entire state, but do not provide transportation. They also require many hours of “service” from parents. Service time increases per child enrolled. Charter schools offer enrollment to all children on paper, but in the real world they do whatever they can to keep out the riffraff.”
      3. See more at: http://www.progressive.org/news/2014/12/187950/behind-charter-facade#sthash.NAqRGD4V.dpuf
    7. This results in less diversity in our public schools, fewer schools with motivated or engaged parents and students.  No doubt this will help some, but help all?  Over the long term this has caused our state’s performance to stagnate or even decline. We already have some elite schools like Benjamin Franklin and Baton Rouge High.  This trend is likely to create a few more of those elite schools, and many, many, more subpar schools that are recycled through new charter operators every few years.
  1. Common Core’s high standards will push kids to try harder! “We’ve been too easy on those pipsqueaks up to now, but with more rigor and higher expectations comes unprecedented success!   If we just “believe” in our children, they will do better.
    1. To drive home this message the Louisiana Department of Education even changed its homepage and signature to this motto, “Louisiana Believes.”
    2. Honestly, does anyone really think the only thing that has been holding us back all these years is simply a lack of believing?
    3. We had the second or third highest standards in the nation prior to Common Core was adopted in 2010, and we ranked second from last in achievement.  Massachusetts had the highest standards and they ranked first in achievement.
      1. There is very little correlation between standards and achievement any more than there is a significant correlation between charter schools, vouchers, choice, and achievement.
      2. There is, however, a strong correlation between achievement and poverty.
        1. Our poorest schools have our lowest School Performance Scores and our schools with the fewest poor children have our highest SPS scores.
        2. This is generally the same situation across the nation and as a result the community schools of the poorest children are the ones inordinately impacted by school takeovers and privatization – with no discernable positive impact in performance for the community as a whole.
  1. Unions and their bloodsucking ways are the monkeys on the backs of our children and impediment to performance because they protect so many bad, lazy teachers. 
    1. Having inordinately powerful unions does not appear to be an important factor in terms of student achievement.
    2. However strong unions are a significant impediment to privatization which is why charter groups and their supporters like Stand for Children, and temp teacher providers like Teach For America advocate for policies that weaken unions and grant them greater market access.)
      1. Louisiana has relatively weak unions; Massachusetts has some of the strongest, if not the strongest, and is also one of the highest achieving states.
      2. You might even make the case that stronger unions build better outcomes for students.
        1. I won’t do that because I think it is not the most significant factor, not something Louisiana would accept culturally, and not an outcome one can influence directly very easily or very quickly.
  1. All Louisiana needs is some real “accountability.”  If we hold lazy teachers and crappy schools accountable they will know we mean business and work harder.  If they don’t we’ll take em over and the next guy will work harder. 
    1. We’ve increased testing and “Accountability” impacts for schools and school districts steadily over the last 15 years.
    2. Whether you believe it or not, every Superintendent of Education manipulates the outcomes of these results (although White is the most egregious) to show they are doing a good job.
      1. The scoring should be handled outside of LDOE by an independent auditor no matter who is in charge to prevent political interference on the outcomes –  if we’re serious about these scores being meaningful.
  1. We live in the technology age but somehow we haven’t inserted data ports directly into children’s brains to upload everything they need to succeed.  Before we do that, let’s give them all laptops and see if that does anything. 
    1. Giving laptops to every child helps Apple and Dell meet their sales quotas, but we aren’t boosting our scores or outcomes dramatically with these devices.
    2. Often these devices become a distraction, toy, or massive headache for IT departments to maintain and replace.
    3. Universal laptops or ipads are not a one-time cost, but a massive permanent cost.
  1. Having more recruits from elite universities become teachers will fundamentally transform the teaching profession into a more professional and respected calling.
    1. All too often these temporary teachers from glorified staffing agencies like Teach For America, City Year, and The New Teacher Project are ill prepared with 5 week training courses on how to teach.
    2. Their presence has had the exact opposite effect. Teaching has become less respected because people are led to believe anyone can become a teacher with a 5 week training course.
    3. The vast majority of these recruits are gone in 5 years, most after the first 2 years. This leads to greater instability and turmoil in districts already experiencing turmoil.
    4. The temporary presence of students from elite universities hasn’t really improved teaching overall, but it has led to a dramatic increase in education startups and new crop of education leaders.
      1. TFA Leaders like John White and Kevin Hoffman primarily hire likeminded TFA recruits and drive off local talent and experienced personnel.
      2. While these folks are usually very smart and committed, they are not better than the experienced teachers they displace or drive off
    5. Even if we wanted to replace every teacher with TFA, The New Teacher Project, or City Year recruits the supply cannot outstrip the demand. This is leading us to become dependent on an outside constant influx of new teachers and leading to shortages of experienced teachers and talent within our state.

Will collecting zillions of points of bio-metric data be the silver bullet we were waiting for? 

Will providing data to third party vendors (and hackers) help our children learn faster?

If these ideas were the panacea we were looking for it certainly would be convenient for a lot of folks; primarily the ones selling these ideas or products.

The truth is, to overcome the impacts of our entrenched generational poverty will require a lot of work from a lot of folks and a lot less “believing” and hoping and standard raising.  If a kid can’t reach the monkey bars, moving them two feet higher won’t help.  If kids can’t read, giving them even harder books and more tests to show they can’t read, won’t make them read more proficiently.  What I found helps my kids is when an adult (or child) lifts them up to where they can reach those monkey bars and feel comfortable hanging from them.

Kids want to achieve, but most don’t want to be overly frustrated or reminded of their failures, or how other kids are far ahead of them, constantly. 

Our schools have been plagued for many years by poverty, apathy, and acceptance.   In many parts of the state we have allowed our schools and systems to fall into disarray.

Our more affluent parents have abandoned the schools and they have taken their resources and parental involvement with them.  Out of these ashes we’ve had some outstanding new school districts form with the backing of their communities, like Central and Zachary. (Obviously Baker is still a problem.)

However the solution is not having the state/RSD come in and take control from the locals or chartering the school to a company based out of New York or Michigan.  Rather than simply punishing low performance or problems, and completely pushing the locals out of the way, we need to work with these folks and help guide support them.  This is what the LDOE used to do when our scores were going up – serving in an advisory and support capacity. This is what we need to do resume our climb from the performance dungeon the education reform movement has commissioned us to – while they drained our coffers dry.

In New Orleans we have many local communities seeking to have their schools returned to them, like the perpetual failure John McDonogh.

Rather than ignore and disregard these folks the state needs to embrace them and their efforts.

We won’t have successful community schools without the community.  We have mobilized communities in many parts of the state. This BESE and LDOE ignores them, mocks them and alienates them.

Many public school parents of means are taking their kids out of public schools to homeschool them.

Those are not victories, but tragic losses we must reverse now, before it’s too late!

Some of you folks on BESE and the House and Senate Education Committees might consider the people showing up to BESE meetings and Education hearings and giving you guys a hard time are the problem, but that is exactly backwards! They are exactly the folks you want on your side.  They have energy and passion and care about their school systems, their children, and their neighbors children.  You won’t be able to fix the schools from the outside if you don’t include the parents and community members on the inside. The few token parents Stand For Children busses in for meetings (and buys lunch for) don’t really count.

BESE members Chas Roemer and Jim Garvey doodle on their cell phones when parents are speaking to them about their troubles and problems.  They ignore criticism and different points of view and evidence that is contrary to their pre-determined stands.  BESE members Holly Boffy and Kira Orange Jones rarely speak and represent the CCSSO and TFA respectively as their full time jobs so they owe their allegiance not to our state or people, but to their employers.

Many of the folks driving education reform have serious conflicts of interest or ulterior motives.

  • Charter schools and technology vendors are going to tell you they are the solution.
  • Test vendors are going to tell you the only thing that you need is more tests with more details.
  • John White is going to tell you he needs more of all these folks because they represent future job opportunities for him.

What we really need doesn’t cost a lot of new money, require fancy new technology, more tests, or more vendors of any type.  We simply need to get back to basics and the three Rs as described two hundred years ago by Sir William Curtis.

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Arithmetic (Reckoning)

Most importantly we need students focusing on improving their reading proficiency and composition abilities. We need to redirect funds from programs we don’t need, that haven’t been proven, or that have been proven not to work, to helping students read more, better, and faster.  This takes practice and finding subjects that interest them.  This takes a time commitment.  This does not require every student to proceed/read at the same pace at the same time.  Student’s should be helped to improve without regard to test scores, without practice tests or test prep which is excessively boring and not conducive to long term learning or retention.

Our children need to learn to read and to be engaged by the material in interesting ways.  We need to eliminate teaching to the test and return to teaching and learning for their own sakes.  This will, as a matter of course, improve test scores.

If children can’t read, can they really understand or learn science, history, economics or civics?  Many of our behavior problems at higher-grade levels are because kids are bored or disengaged because they can’t follow along – because they can’t read or haven’t learned the earlier material.  However when kids have real behavior problems, that are disruptive to the class and school, they need to be removed to allow teachers to teach and other students the opportunity to learn.

Common Core introduced a lot of new “reading” in the math portions, but this is what is giving most children the most trouble.  My daughter was required to read and write for her math homework in first grade when she was still just learning to read and write.  Reading and writing about math problems is not very interesting to a 6 year old.  Common Core (specifically the Tier one Eureka Math LDOE has selected) is trying to address the reading/writing problem in the most frustrating and counter-productive way imaginable to improve children’s reading and writing skills.  Changing an existing standard here and there won’t fix that underlying issue. Revising the entire approach to and eliminating unnecessary frustration is a much greater problem than any individual standard.  The current standards revision process  (that only allows for comment on existing standards) is not likely to address this underlying structural problem.

Common Core does not encourage children to learn on their own, it encourages them to learn only the minimum necessary to pass a test.  The PARCC, Smarter Balanced, and ACT exams do not measure the ability to learn, and thus do not measure potential. As a result of the single-minded approach to improving test scores we are depriving students of the ability and joys of learning for its own sake, and our test scores are not improving.

Louisiana, if you really want to fix education, you need to examine the motivations of folks that are pitching their ideas to you and stay focused on your chief goal – fixing education outcomes and preparing children for a lifetime of learning – rather than being tied down by a single solution, candidate, or ally.

There’s not much money to be made with my solution so I doubt many people will want to buy into it.  However if you would like support me and my vision you will have a chance to vote for me on October 24th.

If you would like to help in a more direct way my campaign website is listed below.

Thank you for you time.

Jason France

2015 Candidate for BESE in district 6

www.jasonfrance4la.com

 

Responses to the Pink Common Core Unicorn

Responses to the Pink Common Core Unicorn

For those of you who missed it last week, our local education deformers cowering behind their ABC PAC, placed pink unicorns on each of our legislators desks with a message stating some of the things they had heard about Common Core were as mythical as the unicorn.

I’ll be honest, when I saw the tagline:

“Unicorns are not real. And neither are most of the things you’ve heard about Common Core State Standards.”

I really thought this was an effort by my crowd, the anti-Common Core crowd.  It would have made more sense and been much more appropriate.

You see, we’ve been fighting the lies spun by big business and mainstream media about Common Core for years.  Each lie we debunk is quickly replaced by a new ludicrous and/or unproven claim.  Much of the strategy of the Common Core movement has been to accuse the other side of their weaknesses before we could point them out.  This is where vague statements like “a mile wide and an inch deep” come from when describing our GLEs which where ranked second in the the nation prior to Common Core, and include much of the same material, except staged in developmentally appropriate ways (like requiring kindergarteners to solve word problems before they can read) and without all the bizarre and intentionally misleading word problem gibberish, and inefficient and contrived ways of solving what should be simple math problems.

Another recent, popularly repeated lie (so it must be true), involves stating our old GLE’s (which were ranked second in the nation prior to Common Core) are complete crap, and returning to them would be a giant step backwards and a disaster, according to State Superintendent John White and his fluffy headed sidekick, BESE President Chas Roemer.

This is peculiar since most of Louisiana’s GLE’s mapped to Common Core content, but Common Core ditched a lot of our material, like cursive writing, learning multiplication tables, and preparing students to take Algebra before High School so they can take Calculus before college.  85% of the content within Common Core mapped to our GLE’s. However our GLE’s actually contained more material introduced in more developmentally appropriate ways.

A little known fact is that LDOE actually spent 1.6 million dollars with WestEd to compare the two and build a crosswalk table to help with the transition from our GLE’s to Common Core, but then decided to move the adoption schedule up a year and ditched all the information they just spent 1.6 million dollars acquiring. The reality is the exact opposite of what Common Core supporters tell you.  Common Core is taking us backwards and lowering our standards.  Common Core proponents promised us the world with their “internationally benchmarked” standards, but all we got was a lousy unicorn and a hefty recurring bill for disposable worksheets.

So Common Core supporters want to have it both ways.  They want to complain that our old standards were crappier than Common Core (even though they covered more advanced material and more material) and at the same time they want to say they had too much, that they were “a mile wide and an inch deep.”  Which is it?  It doesn’t matter.  No matter what anyone says they simply argue whatever is most advantageous at any given point in time, with any given person or group, and their drones regurgitate their talking points verbatim, without really understanding what they are saying, and without any proof or evidence to back up their statements.

This is actually a good example of what is wrong with Common Core.  It was never proven to be effective, nor to be more advanced in any way.  The available evidence actually indicates the opposite is true.  Rather than actually try to back up their statements or provide evidence for their assertions, they resort to fluffy pink unicorns, because really, that’s all the evidence they have to offer.  It’s about as substantial as everything else they claim, which is to say pure fantasy.

So now these folks are creating more of the same lies and gibberish, but somehow believe prancing around delivering pink unicorns to legislators will win them some allies.  I hope that wasn’t their thinking, because from what I read online, some legislators were none too pleased with this prank.

State Representative Brett Geymann had this to say about the unicorn stunt on his Facebook Page:

Is this what they want to teach our children?

The ruling class elitists placed a unicorn on our desk to mock the parents who want to rid our state of Common Core. This is offensive and disgusting and every person and every group that is listed as a supporter of this PAC should resign immediately. This includes any member of LABI and the Chamber in SWLA. Your money is being used to promote Common Core and to mock the parents who are fighting for their children. I will not sit by and watch these elitists do this. The line in the sand has been crossed. To those of you who are fighting so hard to get Common Core out of our state, please know we are all in and will fight to the last day in this session. Big business has lied to the people about Common Core for their own self-interest. I have never witnessed anything so offensive as this in politics.

A teacher with 37 years of experience named Candyce Watsey had this to say to Community Coffee after reading they were a staunch supporter of Common Core:

Dear Customer Service Representative:

I know that you do the best that you can do; so do I. So I would like to begin by making it clear that I do not hold you responsible for the misguided position on Common Core that Community Coffee has adopted.

My family on my mother’s side is from New Iberia. I remember as a child that my grandmother and great aunt brewed demitasse in an enamel drip coffee pot on the top of the stove, painstakingly adding very hot water by the teaspoon to… the coffee grounds until a beautiful, rich brew was ready, served in demitasse cups with only sugar as an accompaniment. For me, my great aunt heated rich milk and poured it with just a bit of the demitasse into a large mug, sweetening it into a perfect coffee milk. To this day, and I am 60 years old, that is the best coffee of my life.

The coffee? Community.

Why is this venerable company tying its fate to a flawed, federal initiative that will only weaken the Louisiana flavor of our schools?

This is my 37th year as a teacher in Louisiana, and I am staunchly opposed to common core.

So, if I don’t tell you how to make your coffee, could you please refrain from telling me how to teach school?

You know your business; I know mine.

Sincerely,

Candyce Watsey
Covington, Louisiana

Note: The website where Mrs. Watsey and other saw Community Coffee listed as a supporter of Common Core has since been taken down.

When I visited the unicorn website I was treated to more lies, fabrications, straw man arguments, and truth twistings that would impress a twizzler addict.  Common Core really is a pink unicorn, but what Louisiana needs is a break from the false promises and fantasy of Common Core was promised to be, but clearly wasn’t for thousands of children and parents across our state.

What we need is a healthy dose of reality.  I hope we can find a way to deliver this message to our legislators before it is too late.

Local School Board Races

I just realized I’ve been neglecting what I have been telling others to do, get involved in local school board races.

I’m not a walking sack of money, like Lane Grigsby, but I can do my part to make candidates that actually support public schools and democracy more visible to voters. (Grigsby wants candidates that will replace public schools with irresponsible charter schools and that will listen to him, not voters or constituents.  I feel his goals are tyrannical and destructive to our communities and Democracy and his tactics of supporting candidates through multiple companies he owns to circumvent contribution limits an affront to our laws and a measure of his character and the character of the candidates he supports. )

EBR recently voted to reduce the number of school board seats from 11 to 9.  After this shakeup I wasn’t exactly sure which district I was in, nor whom the candidates were I had available to vote for.  If you are a candidate in a local school board race inside EBR or outside and would like to get your message out and speak to constituents that might have questions for you please contact me at crazycrawfish@yahoo.com

I will also be contacting candidates on my own to see if they would agree to be interviewed for possible endorsements and to report their answers publicly.