Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Important Court Decision on Public Records

I want to sincerely thank Tom Aswell of The Louisiana Voice and our attorney J. Arthur Smith III for blazing the way to the proper enforcement of the Louisiana Public Records law. Tom Aswell, represented by Attorney J Arthur Smith III won an important court decision over a year ago requiring John White and the Department of Education to produce public information requested by Aswell based on the public records law. Yesterday, J. Arthur Smith and Adrienne Rachel acting as my attorneys achieved another important compromise settlement and consent judgment against Superintendent John White and the LDOE to further enforce the public records law on my behalf. The settlement of the case Michael R. Deshotels Verses John White in his official capacity over DOE was agreed to before District Judge Hernandez. According to the agreement, not only is the DOE required to produce the public records I requested over six months ago, but the DOE is required to pay all court costs, attorney fees and additional penalties for not producing such records at the time they were requested. I hope this settlement means that no other citizen will be forced to file a lawsuit to view or obtain public records from the Department of Education.

All that Tom Aswell and I were seeking is information that allows us to conduct independent investigations of some of the data and information that is generated by the DOE in conducting our public business. In particular, I wanted to examine data on the new teacher evaluation system and get a better idea how some teachers get rated ineffective and some teachers get exempted when their VAM ratings are considered invalid for various reasons. I also wanted to conduct independent studies on the graduation rates in the two Louisiana Recovery Districts. The problem is that much of the statistical information that in the past was available to the public and to independent researchers is no longer being made available by John White. Many independent researchers have reason to believe that important data is being manipulated for political rather than proper educational purposes.

But even with the LDOE's high priced attorneys and public relations gatekeepers who vigilantly attempt to withhold public information from the public, the Louisiana Courts have not been willing to allow John White and his department to avoid public scrutiny into the workings of our Department of Education. Because of our courts which are not controlled by Jindal and White, the Department of Education is not yet an independent fiefdom within which John White can totally control public education and reorganize it to meet his personal ideological and political goals without public scrutiny.

An Important Case Study
Many of us who are interested in the welfare of public education and of the education profession are appalled at some of the disturbing consequences of the Jindal and White "deforms" of public education. A perfect example of such deform policies is the chaos now being caused in the East Baton Rouge Parish School system. If you are interested in the future of public education, you owe it to yourself to read this post in The Crazy Crawfish blog.

The EBR public school system is under siege by the LDOE because of their attempts to take over much of the school system. As a result, I believe local administrators have resorted to an unwritten policy of forcing educators to promote and attempt to graduate any and all students regardless of actual achievement. This is leading to appalling negative consequences for students and teachers.

According to the excellent investigative report by Jason France of the Crazy Crawfish blog, teachers in some schools are being bullied into ignoring serious classroom discipline problems, and into promoting some non-performing students to make their schools look good on paper. Teachers are often being required to tolerate disrespectful, aggressive and even dangerous behavior by some of the most disruptive students because the central office wants all students to pass no matter what. These schools instead are deteriorating on the inside because of destruction of discipline and respect for the authority and academic freedom of teachers. In some schools, teachers know that their job depends not so much on their success in teaching but on simply finding a way to promote almost all students. The new evaluation and teacher dismissal policies rammed through the legislature by Jindal make it extremely easy to fire teachers who do not produce the results demanded by upper management. The morale of teachers is systematically being destroyed in some schools, and many of the best teachers are looking for a way to retire or resign early.

There is plenty of blame to pass around for this appalling situation in EBR and in some other parishes, but it all starts with the perverse policies of our Department of Education. Efforts to shame and blame schools and educators for the problems in many of our impoverished communities are totally counterproductive and destructive of our public schools. We don't blame doctors for the high death rate of heart patients but we do blame teachers for the underperformance of our many at risk students!

Five years ago in EBR a group of so called "failing schools" were taken over by the state and converted into independently managed charter schools. Now the results of those actions are just part of the carefully guarded public records. Almost all of the takeover schools are even greater failures according to the statistics generated by the DOE, and the only school that seemed to be slightly improving is under investigation by the FBI. How has the DOE reacted to this total failure of their so called “Recovery” effort? They have pretended that the last 5 years never happened and have announced the creation of an “achievement zone” in EBR run mostly by the state and new charter operators with the intent of privatizing even more public schools. That is why the local school system has reacted with the demoralizing policies that attempt to shield local schools from state takeover. It is not about education anymore. It is purely about a power struggle between the state and the local school system with the victims being the students and the teachers.

5 comments:

Madman said...

Thanks Mike, and congrats!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Mike. As always, you have fought for right and this time, you've won. Debbie Meaux

Blogger said...

Cheers!

Cotton said...

Remarkable. Another punch in the nose for the Jindal/White tag team. May the 'beat down' continue.

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