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It's About More than Paul Pastorek! - Thursday, May 19, 2011

It’s About More than Paul Pastorek!

By Don Whittinghill



          Governor Bobby Jindal has taken another step toward proclaiming himself the anti-public school governor by insisting that his proposed replacement for Paul Pastorek should be appointed even lacking the basic educational credentials to be named principal of a Louisiana school.


          John White, the Governor’s choice for the interim job has been in Louisiana less than a week, and has but three years as a Teach for America assignee, and a short stint in New York City as deputy chancellor for talent, labor and innovation, according to Nolton Senegal, Sr.., executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association.


          "After effectively cutting K-12 budgets since 2008, and causing local districts to eliminate teaching jobs, Gov. Jindal demonstrates his contempt for public school teachers and the progress made over the past ten years because of a misplaced confidence in an education novice,” he added.


          "Teach for America places new college graduates into classrooms with but six weeks of orientation into classroom practice, and then abandons mostly underprivileged students to an uncertain fate,” Senegal said.. 


          "It is hard to escape the conclusion that Governor Jindal harbors only ill-will toward Louisiana’s dedicated school teachers, and administrators.  While continuously raising the bar for student achievement testing, and school performance scores, the Jindal administration has withheld increases that would even allow local schools to keep up with inflation,” he said.


          This will be the third consecutive year that Gov. Jindal’s budget has withheld the 2.75 percent growth factor in the state’s Minimum Foundation Plan while passing other costs, usually budgeted to the state department of education, down to local districts.  The U.S. Department of Education Audit of stimulus spending in Louisiana found that Jindal’s office budgeted millions of the stimulus dollars to raise the 2010 state level of spending to that of 2008.


          "It is clear,” Senegal said, "that the individual that Gov. Jindal is trying to pawn off as an experienced educator has no familiarity with Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education policy, knows absolutely nothing about the reorganized state department of education, and will require many more months of learning than will be available in this term of office.”


          While serving his brief term in New York City the Governor’s choice was seen as highly controversial in his dealings with parents over resource allocation and school building assignment.  He reportedly heavily favored forcing public schools to give up space to charter schools.


          "It appears as if Gov. Jindal wants to continue treating New Orleans parents in the high-handed ways of Paul Pastorek and Paul Vallas,” Senegal added. 


          It is widely recognized that the RSD in New Orleans has morphed into a multi-level educational system that casts most children into the lowest performing schools in the state, and concentrates the better students into charter schools that are being sued in federal court for failing to meet requirements of handicapped children, and maintain some of the highest turnover rates for students and teachers of any schools in Louisiana.


          "Many Louisiana citizens see Gov. Jindal’s term as being aimed at preparing him to appeal to the far right wing of the national Republican Party and as a stepping stone toward a Presidential campaign,” Senegal observed.


          "Pastorek’s experiment in portfolio schools is seen by 60.6% of respondents to the Southern Media and Research poll of Louisiana opinion as yielding little or no improvement in public education, and now the governor proposes to turn over the system to a novice,” he added.


          "Such an appointment by BESE would be in violation of state law adopted by the legislature just last year, but this is nothing new for a Governer that claims federal stimulus funds are profoundly wrong, but then takes the trouble to hand-carry checks into every Parish courthouse in the state like Santa Clause,” Senegal recalled.


          There should be no mistake in Gov. Jindal’s mind that his actions will provide even greater stimulus to the Coalition for Louisiana Public Schools to carry their fight into the upcoming election season, he added. 


          The new Coalition is comprised of the Louisiana School Boards Association, the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, the Louisiana Association of Educators, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Retired Teachers Association and several other non-profit organizations.  The list of local school boards endorsing the Coalition’s efforts grows weekly with 10 boards already having done so.


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