Wednesday, March 9, 2016

"White Lies" Fits John White Like a Well Worn Shoe

Thank you to Scott Richard of the Louisiana School Board Association for exposing the false claims in a report on school vouchers Superintendent White had planned to submit to the Legislature. White had claimed in his report that vouchers save the state money, but a recent report by the legislative auditor concluded that the privatization program actually costs the state millions more than sending students to public schools. That's on top of the fact that two major studies of vouchers in Louisiana concluded that student's performance declines when they switch to voucher schools. On top of all that, White has handed out contracts that give voucher schools, not yet established, extra money to get started.

Thank you to BESE members Doris Votier and Gary Jones for refusing to accept or in any way give credibility to the bogus report.

And thank you also to the entire BESE board for voting unanimously to demand that it be corrected.

My good friend and a great voice for public education, Noel Hammatt, coined the phrase “White Lies” some time ago describing our unqualified state superintendent.  This recent bogus report on vouchers is just the latest in a long list of falsehoods by White that shows that “White lies” fits him like a well worn shoe. I want to remind my readers of the many times White has earned that title. From almost the first days of his appointment as state superintendent, White has repeatedly lied about important education matters over which he had responsibility, to advance his interests and his defective and destructive education agenda.

  1. At the same time he was being considered for confirmation as State Superintendent by the Senate, White lied about having a proper system for insuring that the new voucher schools applying for state funding had proper facilities and educational programs. Barbara Leader of the Monroe Newstar and Tom Aswell of The Louisiana Voice exposed the fraudulent application by the New Living Word School, which White had approved without restrictions of any kind to prevent approval of a school that had basically no facilities and no school program. It was obviously just a scheme to to bilk the taxpayers. At that time White was quoted in an email as planning on “muddying up a narrative” to reporters on this so that the issue would not interfere with his appointment.
  2. In this article, also in the Louisiana Voice, White is caught in a lie about not giving State Education Department employee raises. Investigators found that White had actually given 40 employees raises averaging $11,000. He eventually explained that the raises were for restructured job descriptions. But that was only after he was caught lying.
  3. In defending the deeply flawed VAM based teacher evaluation system, White made special exceptions to the flawed formula based on political pressure rather than admitting that the formulas produced erroneous results. In this post Crazy Crawfish and Tom Aswell helped to expose the audiotapes of the planning of this lie.
  4. My blog, the Louisiana Educator has exposed the manipulation of state test scores to show fake progress in supposedly improving student achievement on state tests. It took a couple of public records lawsuits to uncover the secret raw cut scores for both LEAP and end of course tests that have been greatly inflated in recent years so that White could show phony progress.
  5. On numerous occasions White has allowed school systems and charter operators accused of cheating on state tests or violating special education requirements to investigate themselves so that cheating scandals could be covered up. Only because of the bravest whistle blowers have serious abuses come to light.
  6. White promised to insure that the new PARCC tests used in Louisiana would be comparable to other states and would measure our student’s preparation for college. A recent analysis by Herb Bassett show that both of these claims are false.

Those are just a few of the most notable lies. How can the citizens and taxpayers continue to allow this behavior from a person who is entrusted with some of the most important decisions relative to the welfare of our children?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Activists Expose Charter Sins

To: Readers
This letter was printed recently in The Advocate, but it is sometimes difficult to find in the archives, so I decided to reprint it here. These issues may be coming up soon in EBR.
Recent reports reveal the charter school landscape in Louisiana resembles the lawless environment of the Wild West, where anything goes and crimes often go unpunished. The latest renegade is New Orleans’ Sci Tech Academy. To fill a hole in their budget, administrators of Sci Tech (managed by ReNew Schools) falsely identified students as disabled to bring in extra tax dollars for specialized services, denied actual students with disabilities access to the services they needed and violated testing standards designed to ensure the integrity of testing results. The Louisiana Department of Education — our trusty sheriff — didn’t even catch them red-handed. The department claims it would have during internal audits.
But the state department’s regular audits didn’t nab the bandits at Lagniappe Academy in New Orleans. For years, Lagniappe administrators failed to provide services to special-needs children and falsified documents. The department was either unaware of the fraud or turned a blind eye to it until whistle-blowing parents and teachers complained so vociferously for so long LDOE was forced to do a more exhaustive audit. The results confirmed the reports of wrongdoing
Neither whistle-blowers nor the state department reported the crimes at Sci Tech. ReNew turned itself in. And why not? The bandits have nothing to fear. No one was fired, fined or charged with a crime. The CEO of ReNew and the two top administrators at the school were allowed to resign, and the school is under a “corrective action plan.”
Our tax dollars intended to provide special education services were stolen, and Patrick Dobard, the superintendent of the Recovery School District, says there is no hope to recoup them. According to Dobard, the RSD does not have the authority to recover the stolen funds. Our sheriff is powerless.
This is the model New Schools for Baton Rouge and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation are determined to bring to Baton Rouge. They initially claimed charters would improve education for the students in the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone. When that failed, they recruited BASIS for south Baton Rouge and, at a public meeting, Basis’ CEO Peter Bezanson declared its schools will flout Louisiana laws regarding the students they serve.
The law specifically states “the best interests of at-risk pupils shall be the overriding consideration” at charter schools. And yet, Bezanson stated, BASIS is “unlike some of our peers, who exist to serve a particular student demographic.” BASIS schools serve over 10,000 students across the country, but the percentage of free and reduced-lunch children, students with disabilities and English-as-a-second-language learners is under 5 percent. So much for the best interests of at-risk students. So much for the law. In this Wild West, the charter operators freely declare, “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.”
Tania Nyman
One Community, One School District
Baton Rouge