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An Armchair Psychologist Analyzes Bobby Jindal



On Wednesday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal opened a new front in his one-man war on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Jindal filed a lawsuit [see complaint below] in federal court that accuses the U.S. Department of Education of violating the Tenth Amendment by essentially forcing states to adopt the standards. Yesterday’s lawsuit comes just one week after a Louisiana judge issued an injunction lifting the Jindal Administration’s suspension of the state’s contracts for the Common Core-aligned PARCC test.

Jindal’s latest move against CCSS raises two important questions:

Q1: Is Bobby Jindal unaware that Virginia, Texas, Nebraska and Alaska never adopted Common Core?

Admittedly, it’s hard to believe Jindal doesn’t know that Virginia, Texas, Nebraska and Alaska originally opted out of CCSS, especially since he’s spending so much political capital on the issue. On the other hand, since this fact totally undermines Jindal’s argument that CCSS was forced on states, perhaps it’s worth asking.

Jindal's argument is undermined by the fact Virginia, Texas, Nebraska and Alaska never adopted CCSS.

Jindal’s argument is undermined by the fact Virginia, Texas, Nebraska and Alaska never adopted CCSS (FYI: Minnesota only adopted the English standards, not math).

Q2: Is deep-seated insecurity driving Jindal’s fight against Common Core?

OK, this one’s a bit “out there,” so bear with me while I explain…

It’s no secret that Bobby Jindal’s sudden shift from CCSS supporter to opponent is aimed at bolstering his standing among conservatives ahead of the GOP presidential primaries. Given his political aspirations, once Tea Partiers revealed Common Core was a socialist plot to brainwash America’s children, it was only a matter of time before Jindal started to backpedal on the standards. Thus when Jindal threw his support behind several anti-CCSS proposals during this year’s legislative session, it wasn’t much of a surprise. Rather, it was assumed that once these bills were rejected by lawmakers, Jindal would walk away, claim he took a principled stand against Common Core, and leave it at that.

So why hasn’t he dropped it and moved on? Why has Jindal instead attempted to unilaterally kill Common Core and PARCC – in defiance of the legislature and state board – until his effort was sidelined in court last week? In addition, why is he now launching an entirely new court battle over CCSS that will accomplish little more than throwing taxpayers’ money out the window? As Bellwether’s Anne Hyslop noted in an interview with Politico, “Gov. Jindal has made his point 10 times over that he is no fan of Common Core, but at this point, he isn’t breaking any new ground.”

Bobby Jindal holds press conference to announce he's going to overboard with this Common Core thing.

Bobby Jindal holds press conference to announce he’s going to overboard with this Common Core thing.

Anne’s right: from a strategic standpoint, Jindal’s refusal to yield on Common Core doesn’t make logical sense. As much as one hates to admit it, Jindal is obviously an intelligent person (see: Brown, Rhodes, two-terms, etc.). He must know that his opposition to Common Core isn’t going to be the deciding factor that propels him to the top of the GOP ticket. Moreover, by the time primaries roll around, it’s doubtful CCSS will be the hot-button issue it is today, so it’s unclear how much real mileage Jindal can gain from it. In short, Common Core doesn’t seem like a hill worth dying on, and yet Jindal is charging up the slope in a full frontal assault on CCSS.

On the other hand, this stubborn fight against CCSS fits a regrettable pattern of behavior Jindal has exhibited over the years; specifically, his propensity for going overboard with ill-advised political stunts. Whether he’s mocking volcano monitoring in his response to the State of the Union, chastising his own party for bedwetting and navelgazing, or killing a feel-good bipartisan vibe on the White House lawn, time and again we’ve seen Jindal jettison self-restraint in an attempt to steal the spotlight, only to have it blow up in his face. It’s as if Jindal is driven by a desperate need to keep proving himself by being more critical, more outspoken, and more extreme than anyone else, and in the process, he loses sight of the big picture.1

While it’s possible that Jindal’s Common Core battle is winning over converts on the far right, it’s also coming at the expense of his potential supporters in the broad middle, who see Jindal’s actions for what they are: politically-motivated and several steps too far. Furthermore, it isn’t helping his already dismal approval ratings in Louisiana (currently polling around 30%), where folks just want Jindal to give it a rest, so public schools can get on with job of educating kids.

As long-time political journalist and commentator Elizabeth Drew once noted, “Feel is very, very important in politics, especially in a president.” Jindal’s latest salvo against Common Core makes it painfully clear that he’s lost his sense of touch.

  1. Interesting Freudian aside: During his press conference announcing his plan to pull out of Common Core and PARCC, he said: “Personally speaking, when my brother and I would bring home grades of 95%, my dad would always ask, ‘What happened to the other 5%?'” Translation: Daddy was never thought I was good enough? 

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.



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A Victory For Pettiness Over Progress Why Did The Governor Veto A Common Sense Education Bill?



On Friday, Louisiana lawmakers voted to cancel a veto session to override Governor John Bel Edwards’ rejection of a number of bills passed by the legislature during this year’s regular session. The move was expected even though many Republican legislators accused the Governor of using his veto power to punish lawmakers who have consistently opposed his agenda.

Although the Governor’s line-item vetoes of construction projects in the state budget aroused the most controversy, the press largely overlooked his rejection of House Bill 568, a proposal from State Rep. Nancy Landry which would have revised the state’s student data privacy law.

Some background on H.B. 568

The story of House Bill 568 has its origins in a conversation I had last spring with a friend who works at the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University. For years, CREDO has produced highly regarded studies on the effectiveness of the state’s charter schools using data provided by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE). However, in 2015, LDOE officials informed CREDO they could no longer provide access to that information due to changes in the state’s student data privacy law, passed by the legislature in 2014, which prohibited the department from sharing data with research institutions outside of Louisiana.

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford has published highly regarded studies on the effectiveness of charter schools.

Without access to student performance data, CREDO’s research on Louisiana’s charter schools would grind to a halt and education policymakers would lose an objective, in-depth assessment of the health of the state’s charter sector. Moreover, the refusal to share data with out-of-state researchers would mean that Louisiana’s influence on the national education policy debate would be significantly diminished.

Seeking to avoid that outcome, my friend at CREDO reached out to see if I had any ideas on how they should proceed. I connected her with State Rep. Nancy Landry, who serves as chair of the House Education Committee, to explain the situation and see if she could help. Their subsequent discussions resulted in H.B. 568, which Landry filed during this year’s regular legislative session.

State Rep. Nancy Landry (R – Lafayette), is chair of House Education Committee and has clashed with the Governor over education policy.

The bill sought to carve out an exception to the overly broad changes lawmakers made in 2014 by allowing data to be shared (in accordance with standard data privacy protection procedures) with researchers at any college or university in the United States accredited and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. In short, H.B. 568 was limited in scope and non-controversial, as evidenced by the fact that it passed by large margins in both the House (95-3) and Senate (27-7).

Read more about how researchers use student data:

Student data privacy and education research must be balanced

Last week, the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on data privacy protections for students. Michael Hansen highlights the gravity of the debate around how Congress will update the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) for use in the modern age where big data is king.

So what’s with the veto?

Which brings us to the question of why Governor Edwards vetoed the legislation, especially when it had broad bipartisan support. Let’s start with the “official” rationale provided by the Governor in his veto message:

“The legislation requires LDOE to enter into a memorandum of understanding in which the person conducting such academic research agrees to be civilly liable for any fine imposed as a violation of authorized uses of the student information. Under current law, a person who violates authorized uses of the student information is subject to both criminal and civil penalties. House Bill 568 references civil penalties only relative to the memorandum of understanding. However, it does not create an exception to the criminal liability provisions in current law. Because of these drafting concerns, I have vetoed House Bill 568.”

The contention that the Governor felt compelled to veto the bill over a technicality – i.e., it didn’t create an explicit exception to the criminal liability provision in the current law – is unconvincing. Even though H.B. 568 didn’t specifically address criminal liability, it’s not at all clear that it necessarily needed to do so. In any case, from a practical standpoint, it is highly unlikely that a prosecutor would pursue a misdemeanor conviction – as opposed to a civil fine – against an employee of an out-of-state research institution. In fact, to my knowledge, no one has ever faced criminal charges in Louisiana for violating the state’s student data privacy law. It’s also worth noting that the Governor’s Office never raised this concern as H.B. 568 was winding its way through the legislature and could have been amended.

The Governor’s Office never raised concerns about H.B. 568 as it was making its way through the legislature.

When taken together, the facts suggest that the decision to veto House Bill 568 had little to do with the content of the legislation and more to do with its author. Rep. Landry has clashed with the Governor repeatedly over education policy in recent years and several of the Governor’s school-related proposals have died in the House Education Committee, which Landry chairs. Although Edwards would not be the first governor to use his veto pen to punish lawmakers who opposed his agenda, it makes no sense to apply it to a bill as innocuous and apolitical as H.B. 568, especially seeing that Rep. Landry had nothing to gain by sponsoring the legislation.

Nevertheless, Governor Edwards did just that. Thanks to his veto, Louisiana’s overly broad and mind-numbingly parochial student data privacy law remains in force. Out-of-state academics who want to study our public schools will be told to look elsewhere. And as a result, our public education system won’t be able to benefit from the knowledge and insights their research would provide.

Read House Bill 568:

Read the Governor’s Veto Message:

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All About The Kids? Calcasieu Teacher Plays Politics At The Expense Of Students, Taxpayers



For more than a year, Calcasieu Parish special education teacher Ganey Arsement has been on a self-appointed crusade against education reform in Louisiana. He has blasted charters, standardized testing, Common Core, teacher evaluation, and yours truly on his blog, as well as on social media. He has worked to coordinate his attacks with the state’s teachers unions, particularly the Louisiana Association of Educators, and has sought to ingratiate himself with anti-reform politicians like Gov. John Bel Edwards and former State Rep. Brett Geymann.

Arsement with Gov. John Bel Edwards and former State Rep. Brett Geymann.

Arsement has also become an increasingly visible presence in Baton Rouge, where he has spent untold hours attending meetings of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and lobbying in the hallways of the State Capitol. In recent months, Arsement has turned his guns on State Superintendent of Education John White – the bête noire of Louisiana’s reform opponents – whom he wants replaced. After failing to convince legislators that the law required them to reconfirm White (who has been on a month-to-month contract since the beginning of 2016), Arsement filed a petition in state court late last month that seeks to remove him from office.

Through it all, Arsement has portrayed himself as a selfless defender of public education who is fighting the nefarious schemes of greedy “corporate” reformers. However, a closer examination reveals that his political adventures have instead come at the expense of students and taxpayers.

Unethical and possibly worse

Official attendance records provided to me by Calcasieu Parish Schools Superintendent Karl Bruchhaus show that Arsement missed 16.5 days of work – more than three weeks of school – over the course of the 2016-17 school year.


Arsement's absences and Calcasieu Parish School Board holidays.

According to Bruchhaus, all but one of these days (May 9, 2017) were recorded as sick leave. State law permits teachers to take two days of personal leave per year without loss of pay. The law also allows teachers to take ten days of sick leave per year due to illness or other emergencies without loss of pay. Unused sick leave can be carried over from one year to the next.

In Arsement’s case, it is clear that he took paid sick leave on many days when he was actually playing politics in Baton Rouge. Moreover, you don’t have to take my word for it, as he admits as much several times on his blog. Here are just a few examples…

What this means is that Arsement was off doing political advocacy while his special needs students were left with a substitute (who also had to be paid) and taxpayers foot the bill. I would venture to guess that most people would find that unacceptable, especially the parents of his students.

Missing absences?

If that’s not bad enough, I’ve also identified at least one day – and possibly two days – where his attendance record says he was working, but he was actually in Baton Rouge.

Several sources have confirmed that Arsement was at the Capitol during school hours on May 2nd. Nevertheless, his attendance record does not mark him absent on that date. Why that absence is missing is unclear, but since teachers verify their timesheets, the error should have been corrected.

The second day in question is May 8th when, by his own admission, he proudly delivered a petition calling for the removal of John White to the office of Senate President John Alario. Although he does not indicate when he made that delivery, one assumes he didn’t hop in his car immediately when school ended at 3:10pm to drive two hours to Baton Rouge to drop it off. In any case, Arsement is not marked absent on May 8th, either.

Exactly why reform is needed

When Arsement claims education reform supporters “demonize” teachers, what he means is that they actually expect teachers to do the work they’re paid to do. While this may seem draconian to someone who can apparently skip entire days of work and get away with it, this is not a radical concept to most of us. When taxpayers hand over their hard-earned money to pay for public education, they expect teachers to teach. When parents send their children off to school, they expect their kids will actually spend the day learning. When Arsement instead takes a bunch of sick days to lobby lawmakers for lower standards and less accountability, he’s breaking that social contract and possibly the law. Worst of all, he’s doing a tremendous disservice to the young people in his classroom – kids who need the most help.

In his effort to rollback Louisiana’s education reform policies, Arsement has inadvertently provided a real-life illustration of why they are so desperately needed. For that at least, I thank him.

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Peter C. Cook
Peter C. Cook @petercook
New Orleans, Louisiana
Education Reformer • New Orleanian • Progressive • Democrat • Proud TFA alum • Check out my new side project: @retortonline
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