Friday, 27 July 2012 14:04

Jindal campaigns, Louisiana feels healthcare pain, state ed charters new course

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Governor Bobby Jindal is in Iowa today as he continues to what some claim to be his VP-hopeful tour.

While campaigning for Romney on Friday, he told an audience in Newton Iowa, “Every year we’ve borrowed more than a trillion dollars,” Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, told about 25 invited townspeople and a few random patrons. “My little girl came home from school the other day … and she had a button on. It said: ‘Please, don’t anybody tell President Obama what comes after a trillion.’ ”



On Thursday, he said this about President Obama to a Des Moines audience,
“He can’t run on his record, he can’t run on his platform, so he’s got to tear down Gov. Romney,” Jindal said.

Back home in Louisiana, however, the state is dealing with a major cut of healthcare services.

The LSU Board of Supervisors are meeting on Friday to determine how LSU's network of public hospitals and clinics will cut $329 million from its budget.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration stripped the money from the public hospital system as part of a series of Medicaid cuts forced by a congressional funding reduction.
The Jindal administration levied the bulk of its cuts on the LSU hospitals, which care for the poor and uninsured and provide the bulk of medical training in Louisiana.
Lawmakers worry that facilities will have to be closed to make such deep reductions, but the board asked for cut plans that could keep all 10 hospitals open.

The Louisiana Municipal Association is holding its 75th anual convention this week week in Lake Charles from August 2-4.  Appearing will be Senator Mary landrieu, U.s. Congressmen Boustany and Cassidy, Attorney General Caldwell, Economic Development Secretary Moret and the Environmental Quality Deputy Secretary Appearing to address the delegates. 

Louisiana charters new education course

Here are two views as to how the new Louisiana education law is playing out on the national stage:
The American Federation for Children—the nation’s voice for school choice—today condemned the actions of the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE), after counsel for the teachers union yesterday sent threatening letters to schools participating in Louisiana’s statewide voucher program, urging them to drop out of the program or face a lawsuit from the union.

The letter comes despite a judge’s ruling two weeks ago that dismissed a union attempt to get an injunction stopping the program.

In the letter, which was faxed to participating voucher schools yesterday evening, a law firm retained by the LAE union threatens to initiate litigation against individual schools if they do not pledge—in writing—by 4 p.m. local time tomorrow to cease participation in the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) program.

Kevin P. Chavous, a senior advisor to the Federation, denounced the bullying tactics as a remarkably cruel attempt to block children from attending the schools their parents have chosen for them.

“It’s despicable that adults would use the threat of legal action to stop schools from accepting students who desperately want a better education, thereby squashing their dreams and those of their parents,” Chavous said. “Even by standards of the typical special interest bullying tactics, this is an unbelievably demeaning and insulting action that aims ultimately to hurt the futures of thousands of children.”

The threatening letters to schools on behalf of LAE are in contrast with the strong demand for the program. LAE’s actions came just a day after the Department of Education announced the extension of 5,637 scholarship offers to students to participate in the program this fall—just a portion of the 10,300 applications the Department received—illustrating that any attempts to stop schools from participating in the program are at odds with the demand from parents.

Of the initial scholarship offers, 84 percent of students in first through 12th grade attended a school rated “D” or “F” by the state last year.

An accountability proposal from the department was also approved by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) on Tuesday, further strengthening the program prior to yesterday’s bullying letters.

Chavous, a former D.C. City Council member who has also worked for years to reform education in Louisiana, reiterated that the recent LAE move was unprecedented in its callousness.

“Personal power should never, ever be put ahead of the best interest of disadvantaged children,” Chavous said. “These union leaders have no shame.”

And this from TPM:
The students awarded the state’s vouchers, as of now nearly 7,000 students in number, will not be subjected to the standardized testing that the state’s public schools undergo. Instead, they will have to take the Scholarship Cohort Index, a150-point exam that is similar to the exams the public students take. Unlike in the public schools, however, the tests’ scores will not prevent a student from moving to the next grade.
Still, if the students average lower than a score of 50 in their second year, their new school will not be allowed to take on any more voucher students — though the students will be allowed to remain, and the taxpayer money will still be funneled to the schools.
But these standards, according to White, apply to only 25 percent of the schools receiving voucher students. The remaining 75 percent will still be required to take the tests, but they will only be forced to post the results publicly.
White also inserted a clause that would allow the waiver of any punishments if “the school has improved by more than 15 points on the [SCI] over the last four school years.” That is, if a school has gone from, say, 15 to 30 on the SCI over the first four years — remaining well-beneath the minimum threshold — it would not only retain its current voucher students, it could recruit new ones.
“The whole thing is a sham,” Les Landon, the PR Director with the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, told TPM. “The thing that sticks out is that the superintendent has given himself authority to waive accountability rules that they’ve established, so what does one do?”
Landon said the standards would not affect the ongoing legislation to challenge the voucher system’s constitutionality: “There’s not enough lipstick they can put on the pig to make it conform with the state constitution, so any of the rules that they adopt mean nothing if the law is unconstitutional.”
Opponents say the greatest weakness in the standards is not that 75 percent of the schools accepting voucher students aren’t subjected to any penalties, or that many of the schools in that 75-percent umbrella teach an amalgamation of Christianist creationism and anti-scientific methods — including rebuts to evolutionist theories and proof that the Loch Ness Monster still exists.
Rather, they say, the big problem lies in the fact that the students may be transferring, on the taxpayers’ dime, to a school that will score worse than the one from which they left. That is, astudent can leave a public school if it scores a “C” or below on state standardized testing — but if the new private school scores the minimum of 50, the equivalent of a D-minus, it could still recruit new voucher students.
“There are still 19 schools that we know about that are blatantly teaching creationism … [and] we’re funding them with state money,” Zack Kopplin, who monitors Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reforms, told TPM. “White says he’s waiting on state testing and things like that, and that’s absolutely absurd. We know that the these schools don’t meet the public schools standards that they’re supposed to be better than.”




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