Letter to the Auditor

 

I recently received this letter from a friend named Mark Joyce, who has been getting very actively involved in Louisiana’s education scene and in particular the malfeasance at the LDOE.  (Mark has recently been investigating and publishing pieces about campaign financing for candidates in the Advocate and Louisiana Voice.)  After reading about the latest disgusting revelations that have come out about ReNew charter in New Orleans he apparently recognizes this systemic abuse and neglect is something we all need to be concerned about and he as written the legislative auditor to try and rekindle some interest in some of the auditor’s own findings as well as these latest developments.

Mark summarizes some more historical revelations about now LDOE and RSD have squandered precious funding over the years without any repercussions.  Local school districts are also dramatically impacted by the way our state has chosen to implement charter schools. This is putting a strain on local communities and school systems over the same time period that funding for local systems has decreased.

The State has devised a scheme whereby they essentially steal locally local tax dollars allocated to pay for public schools overseen by the local district and hand them off to charter schools that the state “oversees” (not very well if at all as the ReNew situation shows) and approve and which the local district has no oversight over.  In light of our state’s current dire financial situation can we afford to permit this systemic and commonplace incompetence continue?

 

 

February 3, 2016

Daryl G. Purpera, CPA, CFE

Legislative Auditor

1600 North Third Street

P.O. Box 94397

Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804-9397

Mr. Purpera,

I applaud your office’s efforts to help ensure transparency and accountability in the use of taxpayer funds. With a budget deficit in the billions, there is no room for fraud or financial mismanagement.

The Financial Audit Services Management Letter issued December 21, 2015 by your office, highlighted the Recovery School District (RSD)’s inadequate financial controls for the ninth year in a row. As your office noted, “We determined that the prior year findings related to inadequate controls over movable property and inadequate controls over payroll terminations and overpayments have not been resolved by management and are addressed again in this letter.”

Problems are not limited to RSD; more generally, your audits have repeatedly shown deficiencies throughout the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE)’s financial systems. Problems with LDOE’s fiscal management of public money are pervasive.  The system lacks fiscal responsibility for both public and charter schools (within the RSD and elsewhere).

Charter school growth has added to the financial management and oversight problems for LDOE. The gaps are showing.  Some examples are highlighted below.

Recently nola.com reported January 29, 2016, on fraud in testing and special education at a charter school in New Orleans.

The former principals of ReNEW SciTech Academy in Uptown New Orleans were accused Friday (Jan. 29) of special education fraud, failing to follow federal special education law and breaking state testing rules. Louisiana Recovery School District officials said the principals, Tim Hearin and Alex Perez, snagged almost $320,000 in public money for the school in the 2014-15 academic year by artificially inflating special education services. They also broke numerous test security rules, including asking at least three teachers to look at testing books — one during the test itself — to improve future results.

These are special education funds. These dollars are precious.  Back in 2013, in your report, Louisiana Department of Education – Monitoring of Charter Schools, it was reported that three of the six schools that offered special education services either had excess charges for special education students or could not provide documentation of services provided to special education students. Obviously the issues around the management of these funds continue.

A rising financial issue that New York and other states are identifying is charter schools paying inflated leases for their buildings significantly above market rates. This is happening in Louisiana, also.  One example is the Mentorship Academy type 1 charter in Baton Rouge.

Annual rent is approximately $800,000 on a building (owned by an out-of-state Real Estate

Investment Trust) with an assessed value of $3.2 million. This equates to yearly rents equivalent to 25% of the building costs. More dollars for rent leaves fewer dollars for education.

Another example is Inspire Charter Academy, another type 1 charter in Baton Rouge.  It is owned by a company in Michigan that shares an office address with National Heritage

Academies. This site has an assessed value of $5.5 million and annual rent above $1 million.

Again, this money leaves state control and is not available for use in the classroom.  LDOE should have oversight systems in place to ensure that excessive amounts are not being paid in overhead at the expense of education.

Another example of lack of sound financial management systems related to the vouchers issued through the Louisiana Scholarship Program. This was highlighted in your report issued September 27, 2015, Prevailing Faith Academy May Have Used Scholarship Funds for Other Purposes.  The Legislative Auditor office uncovered this issue.  LDOE did not.

The issue of transparency, accountability and oversight is increasingly critical given that increasing amounts of local tax money is being diverted away from the control of local school boards without the commensurate growth in good financial management.

According to the most recent LDOE Minimum Foundation Program spreadsheet, over $242 million is expected to be deducted in 2015-16 from the state’s support of local schools and instead given to state-chartered schools, which effectively removes local tax revenue from local control.  This total has grown from $184 million in 2013-14.

Most of the local taxes transferred to the state for charters are in Orleans Parish, but the numbers elsewhere in the state are significant.  These figures include RSD but appear to exclude Type 1 (locally approved) charters. For 2015-16 the forecasts are:

• Orleans Parish will transfer $162,735,197 of local tax money to state control

• East Baton Rouge Parish School System:  $28,327,990

• Lafayette: $9,652,336

• Calcasieu: $9,599,131

• For the other 65 parish and city districts COMBINED, the total loss of local tax money to charters is $31,959,492

• The estimate statewide total diversion is $242,274,146

In the past three years, local education dollars rerouted from traditional public schools to charter schools rose by 39 percent in the East Baton Rouge Parish school district — to $28.3 million — and 73 percent in the Jefferson Parish school system — to $4.5 million, according to state figures (comparing the spreadsheet referenced above with similar reports from previous years).

These figures were reported in The Advocate: Critics say charter schools draining vital dollars.

Furthermore, it does not appear that either the RSD or the LDOE consistently audit student home address data to assure that school systems are having money transferred based on students who actually live in the districts whose local revenue is being taken away.

Regarding the distribution of funds, I have seen no evidence that the Superintendent has established systems to avoid the issue you reported in Louisiana Department of Education –

Monitoring of Charter Schools in 2013 that found that LDOE overpaid or underpaid half of the participating schools in academic year 2012-13.

Even parishes without charter schools are involuntarily contributing local tax revenue to support them.  “BESE is overriding local school board decisions in the name of choice, and the local district is left holding the bag,” according to Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association said just last week at a BESE meeting.

The LDOE Bureau of Internal Audit lacks the size, funding or independence to provide sufficient oversight to review both the public school system AND the new charter and voucher school systems in Louisiana. Results of these (any) audits have not been made public. Of course, there is an annual report from LDOE, but this presentation has been roundly criticized for lack of independence and the lack of any provision of data to an independent third party. For such a critical issue as education, the department does not provide de-identified data in any raw form.

In any case, the presentation does not provide the oversight envisioned by the legislature.

Finally, as LDOE reported, they stopped conducting on-site audits of charter schools in 2008 because of a reported “lack of resources”. Currently, charters self-report.

Obviously, LDOE under the current superintendent has not been responsive to the results of external audits. As you know, recently LDOE responded that they do not need to develop a more comprehensive financial management and oversight process; it “is confident that its current practice … is sufficiently comprehensive.”

Given the findings in the report coupled with the existing lack of oversight by the Department of

Education, we respectfully request that your office formally audit LDOE’s financial oversight of ALL charter-type schools and update Louisiana Department of Education – Monitoring of Charter Schools.

Adequate oversight processes are necessary to ensure that monies are spent as intended, in this case, for the education of our children.

Thank you for your time and thank you for all you have done for Louisiana.

To verify that this email has been received, please reply and acknowledge receipt. If I do not receive a reply in a few days, I will resend it as a certified letter. Feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Mark Joyce

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Rather than fess up to a budget shortfall (and make Jindal sad), White chooses to steal money from schools

I just read an article on The Lens that tripped my BS meter. (Pretty much anytime John White opens his mouth it goes off these days.) It’s about school counts and funding, which I was in charge of for almost 9 years before John White arrived on this scene with his band of bandits.

Only a few months before their fiscal year ends, some of the city’s schools – whether they’ve budgeted for it or not – will be getting $181 less per student in local revenue, a cut of 4 percent.

Most people probably won’t catch what happened, and they are bewildered, as well they should be. White just played a little sleight of hand trick on everyone, making schools that have more students at the February count, inexplicably owe money to the State (instead of vice versa) as has been the case ever since we switched over to two collections starting in 2006-2007 after Katrina. The February count is the Official MFP count, and impacts payments made in March until the October 1st count of the following school year – which is an update from the previous year’s MFP (Minimum Foundation Program) funding formula. What has happened in the 9 years I was over this area (and having the provide justifications twice a year for the increase and decrease to our office of Management and Finance) is that school districts that lost 50 or more students in October over the previous school year’s February count, had their funding stream reduced until the next official MFP count, and school districts with increases over 50 students had their funding increased. February is the official count and school districts get their funding based on this new count, down to the student, that’s kind of what makes it a per pupil count. A per pupil count does not go down when you get more students, and up when you have fewer students, that’s kind of the opposite of a per-pupil count, ya know?

Though the per-pupil amount for the 2012-13 school year was projected to be $4,110 a child, an influx of 1,257 additional students, as well as an unexpected $1.7 million increase in fees for legacy costs, has cut the allocation to $3,929 per child this year, education department officials said.

You see if Orleans had an influx of more students, that would mean the per pupil amount Orleans was able to supply would be cut because they same pot of money would have to be divided among more students, meaning less per student, right? That would mean the state would actually have to increase their contribution to keep the funding level with the previous year.

Per-pupil state allocations to schools in all 64 parishes are based on what’s called the Minimum Foundation Program. They are designed to increase if local revenues decrease, assuring, at least theoretically, that students in poorer parishes can receive an education comparable to what’s available in richer parishes. An increase of $244 per student that OPSB schools received for the 2012-13 school year was based on projected enrollments and revenue, not actual enrollments and revenue, Padian said.

In the past (like every year since 2006) the Louisiana department of education would have to make supplemental requests to keep up with the increases in students. This would be the first time I heard an increase in students resulted in a net decrease for a parish or school district.

This is simply a brazen money grab to defer asking the legislature for additional funding for the additional students. If White is allowed to do this, he is essentially doing away with per-pupil funding and converting it to a lump sum for a school district, regardless of their population or needs. That makes his budgeting easier, but shifts all the burden and scrambling to the school districts, where it does not belong.

School districts need to be given the money they are promised, and when their student populations go up, their funding should increase. That’s simple math, that’s per-pupil funding, and that’s just plain common sense. I’m not sure where John White learned his “new MFP math”, but he is in desperate need of a refresher before he bankrupts our school districts through his ignorance and White lies.

DeMythdefying LDOE’s Myth-directions and Myth-information about MFP

DeMythdefying LDOE’s Myth-directions and Myth-information about MFP

MYTHS VS. FACTS

MYTH 1: Public education funding has been cut.

FACT: Funding per student will at least remain constant this year. The MFP establishes the total cost of providing an education for a student. Then the formula determines the percentages the state and the local districts will each pay towards that total. When the local share decreases, the state share increases. The state share goes down only if local tax revenue increases.

Mythdirection: The base amount remains the same, but the scaling factors are changed. Simply read LDE’s “Myth 3” below that describes some districts will lose less than 100 dollars per child (the 10% is another mythdirection), and you will see LDE wasn’t even able to complete a document with 4 points internally truthful. 100 Dollars per child for EBR with around 44,000 thousand students would be a loss of 4.4 million dollars. However the actual calculation provided by LDE for EBR shows a loss of 75$ per student, which is only 3.3 million dollars, or about 2-3 % of EBR’s state funding allocation. Of course the assumptions used to generate these estimates could be wildly off, and are probably wildly optimistic in the first place. To find out how much you are losing under this formula John White just claimed you were at least remaining constant go here.

MYTH 2: The state contribution to the MFP has remained flat.

FACT: The state’s overall public education spending will increase by nearly $40 million this year, even as the state faces a $1 billion deficit, because of an increase in students. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) did not increase the per student cost, but the board did vote to maintain the state’s share of the overall cost at 65 percent and the local contribution at 35 percent.

Mythinformation: For starters, the 1 billion dollar deficit is entirely Jindal fabricated and easily solvable by eliminating any 1 billion of the 5 or so billion in tax exemptions provided for soft drink manufacturers, and others that have been on the books for as long as a century. One would assume the parents of the students are taxpayers, so it’s not clear why John White felt this was an important point to make? It is worth noting that BESE did not increase the per-student reimbursement for the 3rd or 4th year, which is nice because inflation has only increased like 11% since 2009. I suppose when you look at it that way, in real dollars funding has been slashed 11% and every year MFP remains unchanged school districts essentially take a 2-3% cut in services and salaries they can provide.

MYTH 3: Funds for special education, gifted, and talented will be cut.

FACT: Funding for special education, gifted, and talented will not be cut. The MFP is a block grant. Rather than receiving a dollar amount to spend on specific programs, such as special education, gifted education, and talented education, districts receive a lump sum. The state is piloting changes in the way it calculates the cost of educating children who require such services. The pilot policy that was passed by BESE has only 10 percent of its true impact, meaning that districts typically gain or lose less than $10 per child. All requirements to provide special education, gifted, and talented services remain.

Mythinformation: John White just started calling MFP a “block grant” this year, while it is nothing of the sort. Per RS 17:7 the money allocated for Special Education and other programs must be spent for those programs.

LA Revised Statues R.S. 17:7(2)(f) (at http://www.legis.la.gov/lss/lss.asp?doc=81172&showback=Y):

(f)(i) In addition to any other requirements of the minimum foundation program formula as most recently adopted by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and approved by the legislature, the state board, beginning with the 2010-2011 school year and continuing thereafter, shall require each city, parish, or other local public school board to expend funds generated by applying the weighted factors contained in such formula for at-risk students, career and technical education course units, special education students other than gifted and talented students, and gifted and talented students on personnel, professional services, instructional materials, equipment, and supplies that serve the unique needs of students who generate such funds and to submit annually a written report to the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that details the types of activities on which these funds were expended to serve the needs of the weighted students at all schools that serve such students. The information contained in such annual report shall be published on the state Department of Education website in an easily understandable format.

John White ignores state and federal laws, and even the state constitution, when they are inconvenient. But just putting out a poorly researched and worded memo like this one does not change the actual laws, just makes him look like a fool. Listening to John White is a lawsuit waiting to happen. White really needs to be jailed for misleading folks about our state laws, or at least fired for his gross incompetence.

MYTH 4: Talented programs are being replaced by gifted programs.

FACT: The MFP only calculates the total cost of educating students and provides a block grant to districts. It does not fund or make rules for specific programs, such as talented education. Individual education plans identify what is needed for a child and must be funded. In this case, students classified as talented must continue to receive talented education services.

Mythdirection: Districts must provide the services, but they will have less funding to do so because talented students will not qualify for the same funding gifted students qualify for. Can school districts provide the same services with 30% less money? Could you buy the same quantity and quality of food if I slashed your food budget by 30%?

You can see the original “pants on fire” posting here.

My apologies to Robert Asprin. . .  🙂

mythdirections

Bobby Jindal and John White Decide to Experiment on Special Education Students

Bobby Jindal and John White Decide to Experiment on Special Education Students

Louisiana Superintendent of Education and Governor Bobby Jindal are experimenting on Louisiana’s Special Education students. This might seem like a harsh assessment, but as far as I can see the only alternative to this is that these guys are straight up stealing state and federal dollars allocated for special education students to fund pet projects, plug budget holes and provide additional funding to charter and voucher school operators – and that would be a violation of federal law and criminal – so I’m actually giving them the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Superintendent John White takes his marching orders directly from Bobby Jindal, who recently had to abandon eliminating the state’s hospice program and an ill-conceived reverse robin hood tax scheme that increased the taxes on the poorest citizens of our state so as to eliminate taxes for the wealthiest citizens and corporations.  This follows on successful Jindal campaigns to eliminate the office of elderly affairs, over the objection of the head of this agency – whom Jindal fired immediately after she voiced her assessment under oath that eliminating this agency would lead to a decrease in support for our state’s aging citizens. Jindal has also closed most of the state’s mental hospitals, eliminated the state’s charity hospital system, rejected a largely free expansion of Medicaid that would have provided life-saving benefits to Louisiana’s poorest citizens, and slashed funding for state university’s by more than half – with more cuts on the way. Jindal, a “theoretical” devout Catholic, also executes inmates as often as possible, refusing even to delay them by one day despite objections from his own Bishops to postpone one until at least after Ash Wednesday. Obviously Jindal is not exactly trying to win any awards for devout Christian, or nicest human (or even for someone with a shred of any humanity) so it should be no surprise that he has decided conduct experiments on Louisiana’s Special Education students in the name of fiscal responsibility and accountability.  What follows are the hypothses Jindal and White are testing:

Hypothesis 1:

Disabled students improve their performance when you take away the money for providing educational services to them.

Hypothesis 2:

Disabled students can exceed expectations year after year until they are no longer disabled so long as you reallocate their funding when they don’t improve. (Less funding means increased performance.)

Hypothesis 3:

Students classified as “Talented” (for instance music, drama, art, or performing arts) can also excel at academics when you stop funding their talented programs.

Hypothesis 4:

Gifted Students can improve infinitely when you reduce their funding for academic programs when they don’t improve any given year.

These ideas may seem obvious to some of you. To me they seem less so. Nevertheless our Governor, and his trusty steed, have set a course to determine if these ideas have merit. The vehicle for conducting this experiment is something called the MFP funding formula. This is the formula through which Louisiana funds public education students each year. In the past the basic formula could fit on an index card and was pretty straight forward.

  • If you have a vanilla student, school districts get funding for one student.
  • If that student is classified as “disabled” districts get a weighted amount equal to 2.5 students.
  • If you have a gifted or talented student districts get funding equivalent to 1.6 students.

Now the formula is 26 pages long. This new formula was either devised to allow John White to conduct experiments on Louisiana children in all sorts of nearly incomprehensible ways, or to secretly steal the funding from Louisiana school children so it can be plugged back into the State general fund. Because Jindal and White have roundly rejected they are stealing money, and that this change is about accountability, I will take their word for this in my analysis of their plan.

Hypothesis 1: Disabled students improve their performance when you take away the money for providing educational services to them.

According to the formula proposed by John White on page 5 of 26

A. Student Performance – A weight is provided for student performance using the Value Added Model (VAM) and the LAA1 and LAA2 accountability data from the latest available data. The weight is provided under the following circumstances:

i. Category 1 provides a 135% weight times the number of students whose score in English Language Arts (ELA) or Math “exceeded expected achievement” in the Value Added Model or whose LAA1 or LAA2 test results improved one achievement level or more, or

ii. Category 2 provides a 175% weight times the number of students whose performance in English Language Arts or Math “significantly exceeded expected achievement” in the Value Added Model.

B. Graduation Rate – A weight is provided for students with disabilities that graduate using the latest available data. The weight is provided at 150% times the number of students who graduated within four or five years of entering high school.

I know what you’re probably thinking. At least John White filled his 26 pages with easily understandable gibberish and jargon. I’m sure most casual readers will understand what this means, but for those who don’t, allow me to translate.

LAA1 and LAA2 are tests for disabled students. Value Added Modeling is based on the idea that every student increases an average amount on a test each year. With a good teacher they will gain more, with a bad teacher they will gain less. The amount expected to be gained by a student is also based on each student’s previous gains. If a student makes an “exceptional gain” one year, they have to make an even larger gain the next year, and so forth. The first year they fail to make an exponential gain, they lose funding. The theory is, this loss in funding will cause the student to try even harder. Eventually students will have to score more points than are possible to keep up with their expected gains, so eventually all students will get less funding. I’m not sure what this is supposed to test.

The graduation metric is weird for a couple of reasons. Apparently hearing-impaired students who graduate in 3 or fewer years are not eligible for the additional funding, so on the one hand John White is setting average expectations for some students and punishing them if they exceed them. White doesn’t want disabled students graduating too soon. On the other hand he is assuming all students in Special Education, even those with severe mental disabilities, should be able to get a diploma. Many Special education students get training in life skills to help them be self-sufficient, or at least less dependent on full time caregivers. Apparently John White believes having high expectations for quadriplegic students with severe brain injuries will push them to both tie their shoes and get their highschool diploma.  If they don’t – he will take the funding that provides for their education.

Hypothesis 2: Disabled students can exceed expectations year after year until they are no longer disabled so long as you reallocate their funding when they don’t improve. (Less funding means increased performance.)

C. Continued Services After Declassification – The formula utilizes this weight in order to recognize the cost to the district associated with students declassified from special education but still requiring academic support services. This weight sustains funding once a student is no longer identified with a disability. The number of students that are no longer identified as a student with a disability from the latest available data is multiplied by 150% to determine the weighted student count. This weight does not include students identified as Developmentally Delayed or Speech Articulation Impairment.

Apparently in order to get the full level of funding for being disabled, disabled students should improve their performance until they are no longer disabled. I personally didn’t even know this was an option, but apparently John White believes disabled kids are really just slackers and just need a good kick in the pants to get over themselves. Just set some high expectations and they will cure themselves!  Limbs will regrow, brain injuries will heal, and eyeballs will regenerate! Get to work you disabled slackers!

Of course once they fix themselves our “no-longer-disabled-students” won’t be needing those Special Education dollars anymore, so Jindal can just plug those back in the general fund. Of course if disabled students don’t improve exponentially every year, or spontaneously cure themselves, we will also plough some of those dollars back into the general fund.  So it’s really a win-win situation for a politician, maybe less so if you happen to be a disabled child. . .

Hypothesis 3: Students classified as “Talented” (for instance music, drama, art, or performing arts) can also excel at academics when you stop funding their talented programs

Gifted and Talented Weight – The formula recognizes the cost of providing educational services to Gifted and Talented students. Students in grades Preschool through 8 identified as Gifted and Talented are provided a 60% weight. Gifted and Talented students in grades 9 through 12 are provided a weight of 30%. To determine the Gifted and Talented weight, the eligible February 1 Gifted and Talented Student Count (1.0) is multiplied by 60% or 30% respectively.

High Standards Weight – This weight is provided to recognize the cost of providing advanced coursework. A 30% weight is provided for students in grades 8 through 11 that meet the certain criteria on exams. To determine the High Standards Weight, the number of eligible students from the latest available data is multiplied by 30%. Students must meet the following criteria in order to be considered eligible:

o Students in 8th grade that score excellent on Algebra I End Of Course (EOC) tests

o Students in 9th grade who score excellent on Geometry End Of Course (EOC) tests or score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam

o Students in 10th grade who score 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam

o Students in 11th grade who score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam or a 4+ on an International Bachelorette (IB) Course

White seems to think talented students must either start taking advanced coursework and drop all those mamby pamby, arts, music and drama classes, or they should lose a portion of their funding. Additionally, not only must talented students take advanced courses unrelated to their talents, but now they must excel far and above most of their peers academically to continue qualifying for “talented” funding.  That seems reasonable.  It’s not like Louisiana is known for many musicians or artists anyways.

White also seems to think allowing some students to study single women from foreign countries in 11th grade is also a pretty good use of state funding (or he ironically hires under-educated morons to run his department of education these days. . . )

Students in 11th grade who score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam or a 4+ on an International Bachelorette (IB) Course

Hypothesis 4: Gifted Students can improve infinitely when you reduce their funding for academic programs when they don’t improve any given year.

o Students in 8th grade that score excellent on Algebra I End Of Course (EOC) tests

o Students in 9th grade who score excellent on Geometry End Of Course (EOC) tests or score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam

o Students in 10th grade who score 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam

o Students in 11th grade who score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam or a 4+ on an International Bachelorette (IB) Course

Any year a gifted student does not take an EOC or AP test, even if its a test they’ve already taken before, they will lose a portion of their funding. This change was done (to ensure testing companies have an ever increasing revenue stream) to make sure gifted students were getting their money’s worth out of all those fancy shmancey advanced course work they are taking. If gifted students can’t prove they are getting their money’s worth to the state every year by earning AP credit,  White takes their money away.  To his mind, this will ensure they try harder, or lose access to advanced classes.

As far as I can tell. . .

Bobby Jindal is a heartless tyrant trying to shoot-the-moon in terms of being the most horrible human being possible and John White is following Jindal’s lead. If you are poor, weak, old, infirm, disabled, gifted, troubled, sick, young, old, a student, a teacher, or cross his path, Jindal wants to be your black cat and your grim reaper all rolled into one.

If you are a legislator you need to finally stand up to this lame-duck shell of a human being. You may think that by going along with him you are sparing yourself a committee demotion or perhaps a pet project for your constituents, but if Jindal’s history is any indication he will be coming for you, and whatever you hold dear.  If you never stood for anyone else then who will stand with you? The only way you can fight a petty tyrant like Jindal is by showing a united front.  This was done with the hospice elimination issue and more recently with his reverse robin hood sales tax scheme that turned out to be a losing deal for everyone, except Jindal and his pipe-dream inspired presidential political aspirations.

Reject the 2013 MFP formula proposed by John White and approved by BESE. Tell John White to restore the MFP formula to what it was before, a fair and much easily understandable funding formula that doesn’t punish or steal from disabled students.

If you are a voter, please call your senators and representatives NOW and tell them to reject the current 2013 MFP.

If you need to find out who your elected officials are, please use this tool. http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/FindMyLegislators.aspx   To use this web based lookup tool all you will need is your current address.  The tool will give you the names and contact details for your state representatives.

We took his funding, like John White said, but he's not getting any better. . .
We took his funding, like John White said, but he’s not getting any better. . . And now we can’t afford his equipment.

Bobby Jindal Cooks MFP Funding Formula to Kill-Off GT Programs

Bobby Jindal Cooks MFP Funding Formula to Kill-Off GT Programs

I was going to title this “John White. . . ” etc., but let’s get real. John White is just an unqualified bobble-headed sock puppet (politicians have them made in places like the Broad Academy) that Jindal sticks his hand in whenever he wants to fluff up his conservative bona fides for his out of state conservative audience and donors. We’ve all seen firsthand what happens when any of Jindal’s puppets stutter anything out of line (it’s been termed Teaguing: where they are given their walking papers the next day, regardless of whether the firing is legal or not.) So let’s dispense with the coy game of cat and mouse he is playing with us through his political teat suckling pig puppets. This tyrannical governing style, meted out as often on his “conservative allies” like Senator David Vitter (who he recently scored political points with liberal DC insiders by making a funny about the Senator’s prostitution scandal) is probably one of the main reasons his popularity is hovering in the low thirties in a state that voted for Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney just a few months ago at a rate roughly equal double to Jindal’s current popularity numbers.

So now that we have that resolved, let us continue. Jindal has proposed changing the way Special Education is funded, though his John White schlep doll.

He is doing this using some tried and true methods.

  • First they redefined the MFP funding formula into a 26 page monstrosity behind closed doors so the public wouldn’t understand the real reason for the changes nor understand their implications until too late.
  • Second they got Jindal’s handpicked BESE members to agree to the changes off the record, and they even postdated the document by over a week, knowing they can ignore open meetings laws with impunity. The press doesn’t call them on it, and the Attorney General actually defends their illegal actions in court on the taxpayer’s dime.
  • Third, they termed this program a “pilot” like they did with the Voucher program that started off in New Orleans for a few handfuls of students in the lowest performing schools in the state, which has been expanded to all students in all schools rated C or below (which is more than half of them so it’s not based on an average for those of you keeping up.)
  • And finally, they are trying to lull you into a false sense of security by telling the “money was just moved” and in some cases overall per pupil funding will go up.

So why would they do this? Well this is part of team Jindal’s overall plan to “repurpose” money dedicated to SPED students, disabled and Gifted and Talented, to the general education fund. This is what legislators try to do by moving “dedicated funds” like those dedicated for coastal restoration, healthcare, and education to the general fund – so those dollars can offset other revenue, and that other revenue can go to pet projects, special tax breaks for campaign donors, etc.

In this particular case this serves the added bonus of padding the per pupil amount that will be used to calculate voucher student reimbursement, and charter school funding. The Louisiana department of Education picked St Tammany as an example of a district that would not be adversely impacted by this calculation, and even went so far as to estimate that their per pupil reimbursement would be about 18 dollars more per student under this “pilot” of the formula. St Tammany doesn’t have any charter schools or voucher schools. . . yet. You didn’t see a calculation for East Baton Rouge, did you? All of the data needed to make the estimated calculations is readily available, but you don’t see the department producing estimates for anyone but one of the lone parishes that would temporarily get a slight increase, at the expense of everyone else.

This might seem a like a good deal, if you live in St Tammany, if you don’t mind selling out disabled, GT, and talented student for 18 dollars.

There are a couple of points you might want to consider before you think this is a good deal.

  • The testing requirements for “talented” students are inappropriate. These are students that might have musical or artistic gifts that would usually not translate to a high score on an AP (advanced Placement) math test. So it’s probably best if you simply accept “Talented” as a student classification is going away, as is most of the funding and programming for these students.
  • St Tammany can;t hold out the voucher and charter schools forever, and the virtual schools and course choice providers can paoch their students with impunity now.
  • Gifted as a program or classification is essentially eliminated in favor of testing students for passing AP exams as the department no longer distinguishes between students getting high grades on AP exams and gifted students. While it’s hard to argue that it is a laudable goal to try to encourage more students to tackle AP coursework, and earn college credit (especially since our state first time college freshman remediation rate (the percent of students requiring remedial coursework before taking their college coursework) has been increasing over the past 4 years, (probably around the time LDE adopted the career diplomas that required fewer hours of English, Math and Science but still allowed student to apply to colleges and universities) the proper way to do that would be with dedicated funding for that goal. Rather than properly fund an initiative that would enable all students to take advanced coursework, Jindal and White have stripped the funding from GT for this purpose (or “repurposed” it in politician-speak.)
  • The new MFP funding formula more evenly spreads out Special education funding for disabled and gifted students will be distributed more evenly to all students, thus not altering the overall funding to be sure. However it will be from this communal pot of money that vouchers and charter schools pull their average pupil allocation. Charter and Voucher schools  Always, Always, Always shy away from the hardest students to educate. Parents actually have to sign away their IDEA rights if they choose to enroll a disabled student in a voucher school, and I can’t tell you how many lawsuits by parents DOE has already had over charter schools in Orleans refusing to provide services or enroll disabled students. (In part because this is a closely guarded secret, partly because of gag orders but I had to prepare plenty of reports showing how most charters enroll very few disabled students, and none of the severely disabled students which cost the most to educate.)
  • This is the tried and true boiled frog approach used for vouchers so successfully in New Orleans after Katrina (and a version of the bait and switch Stelly tax that lowered taxes on in exchange for raising them elsewhere. . . and then the offsetting tax was repealed creating an entirely avoidable perpetual state deficit crisis. ) The premise of this theory goes something like this: If you try to put a frog directly into a boiling pot, it will sense the heat and jump to safety. If you put the frog in a pot of cool water and just gradually raise the temperature, the cold-blooded amphibian will simply change his temperature to match the surrounding water temp without noticing the danger he is in. . .

We’ve seen what this governor has done to frogs before . . . how many of our tadpoles do we have to see cooked before our eyes before we say enough?

boil-the-frog - jindal