Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Political Priorities Involved in State Contracts

Louisiana Voice blogger Tom Aswell in this blog exposes some of the wasteful excesses found in many of the Jindal consulting contracts.

It does not seem to matter how financially strapped our Louisiana State budget seems to be, there always seems to be room for lavish, politically motivated consulting contracts.

I must admit that I voted for Bobby Jindal the first time he ran for Governor because I thought he would be the kind of public official who would do his job with the highest ethics in true service to the citizens of Louisiana. I was greatly disappointed just like many others that he turned out to be the worst kind of politician.

Some of the abuse of office by Jindal and his lieutenants is created by dozens of unnecessary consulting contracts with various firms. State Treasurer John Kennedy has been calling these contracts to the attention of the legislature and the public for the past two years. Kennedy has suggested legislation that would cut all state contracts by 10%. According to Kennedy, even such a small cut would save the state millions.

It seems the department with some of the most lavish and questionable consulting contracts is the Department of Education managed by Superintendent John White. Last week Kennedy blew the whistle on a $250,000 consulting contract that is supposed to help parents make good choices using the new school voucher program. According to the state grading system and the most recent audit of voucher schools, it turns out that most voucher parents made terrible choices for their children in the voucher program. Why did the taxpayers have to fork up a quarter of a million dollars to this consulting company so that bad choices could be made for children?

Superintendent White has also stated that it will cost Louisiana “only” $30 per student to administer the new PARCC examination for the implementation of the Common Core. The only problem with the estimate is that it does not include all the consulting contracts associated with the development and implementation of the Common Core. It also does not include the millions of dollars in technology upgrades that must be paid by local school boards so that kids can take the tests on computers.

Another example of Jindal's abuse of office is the recent contract with the New York firm of Alvarez & Marsal supposedly to recommend ways of cutting government spending. Tom Aswell points out in his blog that finding such savings would amount to evidence of lack of competency of Jindal's department heads and of Jindal himself for appointing administrators who routinely waste millions of taxpayer dollars. Aswell points out that Kristy Nichols, Commissioner of Administration, was not truthful when she told the news media and the legislature that the contract required the consulting company to come up with 500 million dollars in savings by trimming programs in state government. The truth is there was no mention of the 500 million savings in the contract.

It turns out that the New York firm, Alvarez & Marsal was the same company that advised the New Orleans School Board after Hurricane Katrina to fire their 7,000 experienced teachers and replace them with TFA and other poorly qualified teachers. Now two courts have ruled that the school board and the state (because the state took over most of the New Orleans schools) may have to award the fired teachers up to one and a half billion dollars in back pay for improper termination! So why would Jindal continue to hire a company that has given such bad advice in the past? And why is Jindal spending millions of dollars for private lawyers to defend the enforcement of Acts 1 and 2 of 2012? Those are the laws that attempted to destroy teacher tenure and set up the voucher and course choice system. These two laws have been consistently found to be in violation of the state constitution.

So we the taxpayers are going the pay this firm 4.2 million dollars in the hopes that they can find savings up to 500 million dollars in our state budget. Once they write their report, they will be paid with our taxes regardless of whether the legislature agrees with their recommendations. There are many other politically motivated contracts that work the same way. We the taxpayers have no way of knowing whether the contractor did a proper amount of work on the project. Meanwhile our state colleges have seen their budgets cut by more than half, and Louisiana has continued to provide sub-standard services to citizens.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe ANYONE voted for Jindal the first time...the word that came out of DHH, where Jindal was a previous head, was that Jindal didn't have much common sense and made cuts in areas that provided services while padding the pockets of people in ways that didn't make sense. They were in awe because of his platform of running on "ethics"...It has amazed me how many people voted for Jindal (either time) that have been so negatively affected by him.

Anonymous said...

I take it back, I can believe that people might have voted for him the first time...he was Republican and seemed to be the "vogue" candidate...however, any digging into where he was before should have shattered that. However, he blindsided us with his first win, that's for sure. What I can't believe is that ANYONE voted for him the second time...but the thing everyone kept saying there was, "there is no one else to vote for". Apparently, "they" defaulted to the familiarity of his name, "experience", or whatnot. It didn't take them long to start apologizing to teachers, DHH, universities, state parks, etc. It is obvious that the poor don't vote in numbers, the rich want deep cuts/change just because they can, and the middle class are sheep who have sided with the rich to their detriment, but can't change it till the next election cycle. (Hopefully, they WILL change it on the next election cycle...)

Anonymous said...

People who think Common Core is rigorous, etc. are not educated on this program which indoctrination of the future of our kids. I am still the parent whose responsibility is to shape my child in values.

Amy Fell

Anonymous said...

A child will get whatever it sets it's mind on out of education. The system has worked for centries and will continue to do so. The only changes should be the advances (technolgy) made ...because of the 'old system'... My parents helped me with my studying because the knew how. They also encouraged me every step of the way and reminded me of the importance of a good education. Making such drastic changes isn't necessary.

Anonymous said...

Why try to fix what is not broken? The chairman of Common Core was turned down for a high school teaching job in New York, and now wants to turn our educational system upside down? People, they're destroying us from within! Wake up!! We are the adults here. We have to protect our children! They are the hope of the future! That's my opinion, Cecelia Mixon