Monday, 02 July 2012 08:38

Jindal's education revolution needs "White Lie" Reform Schools

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school-punish1One of the very basic things we tell our Johnny and Susie when they are old enough to understand and especially, old enough to go to school is—don’t lie.  We insist that they do not make up stories to their teachers, their classmates and even us, their parents.   We even tell them that a "white lie" can be just as bad as a "big fib"

Which raises the very serious question about just what do we tell our kids when those in authority positions who are actually running the schools and changing the very laws designed to help improve education in Louisiana appear to get caught with one big apple in their throats?


That appears to be the very case as a result of a news story out of the Monroe News Star which indicates some top brass within the Governor Bobby Jindal’s administration might need plenty of attention, if not, plenty of detentions. .

The paper has reported that emails “between Louisiana Education Superintendent John White, Gov. Bobby Jindal's spokesman Plotkin and Jindal's policy adviser Stafford Palmieri show White devising a scheme to "muddy up a narrative" and to "take some air out of the room" after a news report about the new voucher program that was published before his Senate confirmation hearing in May.”

At the time that White was being approved for office by the legislature, the News-Star had broken a story that smelled like a scandal in the making right when the governor’s Louisiana education reform law was kicking off and right when Governor Jindal was hitting the national roads telling everyone how wonderful his reforms were for the state and, yes, would be for the nation, if others would follow suit.

That brewing scandal was the revelation that a certain school in North Louisiana had been approved for vouchers by the Department of Education although it totally lacked resources to handle the students.

Here are excerpts from the News-Star article:

In the email exchange, White proposed “creating a news story about the "due diligence" process for school voucher approvals to counter the impact of a News-Star article that revealed the state Department of Education had not performed site visits or extensive review of voucher applications.”..

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee was to consider recommending White's position be made permanent, but according to the emails, White appeared more concerned about damage control from the article about New Living Word School's voucher award that had appeared five days before and the passage of the Minimum Foundation Program, which appeared tenuous at the time…

White believed the M FP discussion would take place the same day on the House Floor…

The school did not have the facilities, teachers or technology to accommodate the 315 students the state approved them to accept. New Living Word was accepted in compliance with the state's approval, which did not include site visits. Questions to the department and an email obtained by The News-Star support the department's initial statements that it "left it up to the parents" to determine if a site met their needs….

On Tuesday, before the hearing on Wednesday, White corresponded with Plotkin and Palmieri through their personal email accounts. The communications were obtained by The News-Star after they made their way into the state's email system…

"I'd like to create a news story about 'the next phase' of determining seats in schools before (Sen. Ed) Murray creates an additional story for us tomorrow," White writes to Plotkin and Palmieri. "I'd also like to take some air out of the room on the floor tomorrow and to give (Rep.) Steve (Carter, House education committee chair) some cover."…

In a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, prior to White's May 30 appearance, Deputy Education Superintendent Erin Bendilly was the first to mention the state's plans for "more due diligence" and "more steps" when questioned about the news story. However, she was dismissed by Murray and told to return the next day with specific answers to his questions. She accompanied White on May 30…

In the email, White discusses how he will create the news story by releasing a communication to schools regarding a timeline for student assignment…

"This will allow us to kill multiple birds with one stone," White writes. "It would allow us to talk through the process with the media, muddying up a narrative they're trying to keep black and white."

In his testimony on May 30, White said the letter to the schools concerning the due diligence process "was planned for some time."

"What we said was we're going to approve you," White told the committee. "We're going to announce the number you said you could serve so as to give parents the quickest information possible, but then we also said, we are going to go back to you if you're one of our larger schools and do a review."..

The letter that went to schools upon their approval to participate and obtained by The News-Star congratulated them for being a part of the program and gave them instructions for marketing the school and accepting applications. There was no mention of further review or further steps in the application process…

When contacted for comment about the email, White questioned how it was obtained…

"As we were about to launch the second part of the enrollment process we were planning how to announce it publicly," he said later…

White and the department's legal counsel contend the document is not public record…

Emails and information obtained for this article were provided as the result of The News-Star's extensive public records requests relating to the scholarship approval process, New Living Word School and The News-Star's email archives for background provided by the department for other articles…

So, when Johnny and Susie do not behave in school and when they seem to have their stories fudged, they normally get sent to the principal.

Just maybe, the principal in this case, Governor Bobby Jindal needs to take time away from his busy schedule of Vice President’s sweepstakes appearances  to realize that his own administration and noted reform is being swept away in scandal and the fate of his state and his future career is at stake.

Read the entire News Star article


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