The CABLWire for Thursday, July 17, 2014 to Wednesday, July 23, 2014

HIGHLIGHTS

Students, Teachers and Citizens Deserve Better on Common Core Stalemate

After the governor’s meeting with Superintendent John White on the lingering Common Core stalemate, we can now see exactly where all of this is headed.

 

“The governor spent his time talking about the history of corruption in Louisiana,” said chief of staff Kyle Plotkin.  Not about children. Not about teachers. And not BESE’s two proposals to the governor to resolve what has become a most disturbing stalemate over student testing. Just more vague references to corruption and education officials “potentially” evading procurement laws.

 

There it was for all to see. More smoke and mirrors. It’s interesting that the administration appears to be accusing the Department of Education of using the procurement process for improper purposes, though they seem to be doing exactly the same thing themselves. The procurement process was meant to shelter state purchasing from political influence, but they appear to be using it to insert their own political influence.  Would that be corrupt?

 

This charade should stop. It’s very clear, just as BESE President Chas Roemer has said, that with the governor’s flip-flop on Common Core standards he is trying to use the vehicle of state procurement laws to attack the standards and effectively rewrite state education policies which are statutorily the responsibility of BESE.

 

Their methods of doing so are becoming exceedingly transparent. Every time BESE makes a move to assert its legal authority, the governor’s Division of Administration fires back with some new and vague allegation implying wrongdoing, but never stating just what it is. Their latest move is most troubling.

 

They talk about putting together an “inter-agency team” to develop a new contract for student testing. What they are referring to is a Procurement Support Team, a little-known bureaucratic entity that has not been involved in testing contracts in the past and was designed more specifically to deal with technology contracts.

 

It’s an entity that is made up of various bureaucrats, its leader is chosen by the Office of Contract Review, it does not meet in public, it requires a quorum to do business and a vote to proceed, but there are no minutes of its meetings that can be found, and no avenue for public input. It’s a murky and opaque black hole where the Commissioner of Administration says "the governor's office is going to want to participate in the policy aspects” of what goes on. That is most alarming.

 

So what’s next? Two things are abundantly clear:

1. If there are indeed questions about “corruption” or any improprieties in procurement, they need to be investigated by an independent body, perhaps the Legislative Auditor, and not the governor’s Division of Administration. They have a clear conflict and given recent actions they no longer have the public’s trust on this issue.

2.    2. This whole matter needs to be decided by the courts. BESE correctly continues to defend its constitutional authority over education policy and the administration appears to be using whatever administrative tricks it can muster to thwart that. This must be resolved in a venue that is fair and independent.

The public is rapidly tiring of this administrative gamesmanship and teachers and parents are growing more concerned about the uncertainties surrounding the upcoming school year. Whatever one thinks about Common Core or nationally comparable student testing, the actions we are seeing from the administration are a cause of concern.

 

The issues at hand are too important to become so tightly wrapped in politics and games of political checkmate. The education of 700,000 Louisiana students is at stake. The public deserves much better government than they are getting on this one.



DID YOU KNOW?
- --Northwestern State University is ranked as the nation’s 4th and LSU is ranked as the nation’s 6th best university for preparation of elementary school teachers. Get more from a recent report by the National Council on Teacher Quality.   

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-- Louisiana had the second-highest per capita energy consumption in 2011 with over 886 million BTUs.   



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