Monday, 26 March 2018 08:50

Louisiana legislature's color of race, charter schools, constitution convention debate

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color capitolAt a moment in which money is short and tempers are long, what role does race play as the Louisiana legislature continues to iron out its budgetary and political differences during this spring 2018 legislative session?

In a prior article and segment of an interview with Elizabeth Crisp, the reporter for the Advocate, we discussed an incident last week that occurred in which the issue of race nakedly appeared during a Senate Education committee hearing.     In part three of the interview, Jim Brown probed further into the more general topic and that incident when Metairie Senator Conrad Appel, a Republican, took issue with comments being made by an African American New Orleans legislator during a hearing on the impact of charter schools. Here is how the Advocate reported the incident:

Elizabeth Crisp discusses Louisiana legislature session failure, budget, JBE

The Advocate's Elizabeth Crisp discusses Louisiana legislature session failure, budget, JBE



As the Advocate reported:

Bouie complained that charter schools badly need scrutiny, and that African American students were suffering as a result of the charter school "experiment."
"This is the big elephant in the room," Bouie said. "It appears the only place the benign neglect occurs is a majority African American district."
Moments later Appel fired back.
"Sir, let me tell you something. You are so far off base with your racial comments. It's disgusting," he told Bouie.
The senator said he was tired of hearing similar comments year after year.
"If there is a bunch of kids out of work that are 24 years old, it is because the goddamned city does not produce jobs for those kids," Appel, said, a reference to New Orleans.
Bouie said a recent study by Tulane University concluded there are 24,000 people ages 16-24 out of work in New Orleans. "They were youngsters who came through the experiment, charter schools," he said.
Bouie said most public school students in New Orleans are African American. "And that is true, Sen. Appel, whether you like it or not," he said.
At one point Appel dubbed Bouie's comments "all b.s., all b.s. I've got to go."
Bouie heatedly objected to Appel's comment that Bouie had accused lawmakers of racism.
"Don't take it personally," Bouie said. "Did I call you a racist?"
 
As mentioned, Brown probed further into the general topic of the Louisiana legislature and race. Below is the transcript of this particular segment of the interview above which starts at the 14 minute, 30 second mark and ends at the 19 minute, 6 seconds point of the video below.

BROWN: You talked about the governor's problems relating to African-Americans and we, I don't know if you wrote about it, there was an article in The Advocate today about a major confrontation that was talked for legislation involving senator Conrad Appel who's looked on as the fairly moderate, gets things done  senator, if I could be objective to be objectively saying that from New Orleans and a state representative who I also think is from New Orleans--it starts to a B-- what was his name, you remember Elizabeth? 
CRISP: Yea, Joe Bouie

BROWN: And that the question, I would ask you I want your perception, you've been there like, say covering those legislators since 19 or rather from 2014--why, how do you sense race relations in the legislature.  Do they reflect what I would say in this state is that the race relations are not very good in Louisiana today and not very good nationally but where I could look back on progress I observed as a public official in the late 1990s, and going into early 2000, for a variety of reasons, there seems to be a stalemate and actually a lot more confrontation.  You see the the race issue at all and I think the representative Accu, rather Conrad Appel brought up race in terms of renewing of charters,  how do you think race plays into the flow of what you're reporting in the legislature?
CRISP: You know I don't, I don't sense a lot of disconnect as far as the rapport among member, I, I traditionally, I cover the house a lot more, especially lately because there have been so many budget issues and that all gets started in the house, so I see a lot of a lot of rapport among the members just how they deal with each other, off of the floor or in I guess a more friendlier sense and everything, but their constituencies are very different and the members of the Black Caucus are very much always going to look out for their constituencies and that might not always jive with the constituencies of their Republican counterparts, and I think that at some level race has to do with a lot of that's the that's the base of a lot of issues--but I don't, I don't see a lot of racial animosity.  I think that that what happened in Senate education the debate over charter schools is inherently racially charged just because that's where where it's gone particularly in New Orleans, and I think that I think that that incident was very unfortunate, and I think that everybody feels it was very unfortunate, and in the Senator Appel apologized afterward.  I think that, I think that it was just a it was a very intense debate and things got heated there.  

Brown:  But, I would suggest it's a very fair expression of how a number people feel. African Americans have deep deep many black American legislators and African Americans, in general have some deep reservations about charter schools, because of the fact that charters have more leeway in terms of disciplinary problems, getting rid of students, picking students, on the other hand a number of non-African Americans feel like that was the whole purpose with charters in the first place that if you wanted to do something more exceptional for your child or take more interest, you'd go to a charter school. So it's an issue that maybe there were some apologies but uh, and I'm not asking you to give social commentary, but I don't think that's going to go away, I think that's gonna be division for some time to come and because I'm not seeing you know, the the division started out from the word "get go" with charter schools, as it seemed to resolve itself more.   
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CRISP: So yeah, think I think it's interesting that there is a divide even among the Black Caucus of do-- whether to support charter schools or not, and so I think that I think that that's gonna be another issue that we'll see play out.  I think that a lot of this feeds into this push for a constitutional convention that we're seeing, that when you look at a constitutional convention, what monies you actually open up?  It really opens up funding for public schools and you know that ends up benefiting the charter schools in the long run or it could depending on who you get into a constitutional convention. 

 

Read 424 times Last modified on Wednesday, 28 March 2018 09:36
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