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Hear the Echoes # 1 - Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hear the Echoes #1

A Backlash Beginning

                LSBA joined hands to deliver a stinging rebuke to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s brazen attempt to hijack federal education jobs stimulus funds.  Working with stakeholders, including both teachers associations and local superintendents, LSBA focused the spotlight of noncompliance with a federal rule that forbids supplanting local or state funds with the stimulus dollars, and spoke against pitting K-12 against post secondary education which the Jindal administration attempted to do.

 

                The Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget not only voted overwhelmingly, 23 to 9, to keep the majority of funds in local hands, and in the current year’s budget, but then admonished Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater when he tried to withdraw the budgetary change order that the committee had just voted to amend in education stakeholders favor.  That Gov. Jindal chose to ignore a letter commitment from Superintendent Paul Pastorek constitutes one example of lacking internal communication.

 

                Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Rainwater told the Joint Committee that there was no decision on how to cut current year budgets to offset a purported $108 million budget shortfall.  Apparently the Governors chief financial adviser was unaware that within minutes of his committee defeat Gov. Jindal announced that higher education and health care will again bear the brunt of the new cuts.

 

                Gov. Jindal dashes about the nation, building his name recognition and political stature, while pausing between flights to deliver dire messages the aim of which appears to be establishment of a crisis mind set.  Such a state of mind is seen, by many, to be necessary if his plan to privatize governmental functions, and shrink governmental services is to be accomplished.

 

                The unwelcome (to the administration) news that Louisiana’s Gross State Product for 2009 grew by 2.5%, and was one of only 11 jurisdictions to rank in the highest growth quartile, complicates the dire projections trumpeted by the administration.  Even later reports that employment grew all across Louisiana  (with the exception of the Capitol) casts some doubt that Gov. Jindal will continue to have success in convincing the public of a state in dire financial straits.  While the Governor’s web site boasts of economic successes, and a fifth best ranking for business development, the administration continues to raise cries of the financial sky falling.

 

                Rumors prevail that Gov. Jindal stands by Superintendent Pastorek, in spite of his alienation of the state education community and large numbers of legislators, because of his connectivity to the billionaire boys club that has devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to "school reform.”  Who knows, with Gov. Jindal’s gallivanting all about the nation seeking contributions, there may be something to such rumors.

 

                Lurking just over the horizon is still another serious challenge to headstrong administration plans to overlook the Louisiana constitution and  state laws in its proposal to transition RSD schools, completing their fifth year, in ways that are not permitted under the law.  LSBA, the Orleans Parish School Board, and other school districts that see the long-term implications of such action as threats statewide, heard from former U.S. Attorney Harry Rosenberg that legal action was clearly an alternative open to public education.

 

                LSBA and OPSB cosponsored a public hearing in New Orleans to air out that issue, and the response from board members from nine districts and superintendents in attendance clearly pointed to taking this added attack against local governance by the Jindal administration into court.

 

                The Pastorek plan for transition will be heard at the December meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.  If, as expected, the three appointees of the Governor and three elected members of BESE who traditionally are solid supporters of his privatization program, should adopt the submitted plan, legal challenge already been planned.                               

 

(This is the first in a new series of staff commentaries on the educational environment in Louisiana.  Look next Frida at the courage of LSBA’s Senator of the Year as he seeks to prevent current education funding policy from becoming "the coffin that we bury Louisiana in for decades to come.”  That, and more of what goes on!)

               


 

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