It is now official. The State Department of Education has finally admitted that all of the state takeover schools in the Baton Rouge area are dismal failures. (The same can be said of all takeover schools in Pointe Coupee, St Helena, and Caddo) Patrick Dobard, RSD Superintendent admitted that the schools in the Baton Rouge area after almost 4 years in the RSD have failed to make any progress. In fact the LEAP and ILEAP results show a decline in student performance in almost all testing areas. (see our earlier post on this) In addition, most of the schools have suffered major losses in student enrollment. It looks like parents have been utilizing “choice” even before the major choice legislation was passed by the legislature this year. Dobard wants to form an "Achievement Zone" for 20 Baton Rouge schools patterned after the Harlem Children's Zone. (I guess they are giving up on modeling after the New Orleans RSD)
Many of the takeover schools in Baton Rouge have been run as charter schools by Advance Baton Rouge, a community organization comprised mostly of “do gooder” junior league types and heavily supported by the business community in Baton Rouge including major blow hards like Rolfe McCollister, editor of the Baton Rouge Business Report. (Rolf's daughter who had no education credentials was hired at one time to help administer some of the ABR schools). Another charter management organization that failed and turned their schools back to the state was the 100 Black Men group which had contracted out two schools to the for-profit Edison Group.
Don't believe it when the reformers tell you that all charter operators are non-profits. An increasing number of charter managers are hiring “for-profit” groups to actually run the schools. The same is happening with the groups approved by BESE to run the two new virtual charters schools. One Virtual Charter is run by the Connections Academy group and another by the K-12 Education group. These for-profits are major funders of the ALEC group (The American Legislative Exchange Council). They have taken lead roles in the drafting of much of the “reform” legislation Governor Jindal rammed through the legislature this session. Does this look like a conflict of interest? How much of our school tax dollars are going into the pockets of wealthy Jindal supporters? (ALEC gave Jindal its top “leadership” award last year)
Advance Baton Rouge which has now demonstrated total failure in its efforts to run schools, was highly favored by groups such as the Gates Foundation and the Milken Foundation which now has a partnership with the US DOE to administer TAP grants to local school systems and charters. ABR had received a six million dollar grant to run the TAP program in its charter schools. ABR also billed itself as a trainer of principals in a program related to 21st Century Skills. Throughout their efforts with charter schools ABR has brought in highly paid principals from as far away as New York, only to have every one of them fail in turning around a single school.
Another charter group that is still struggling to keep control of its Baton Rouge school is The Pelican Educational Foundation affiliated with the Turkish Gulen Movement. This charter group had its charter school in New Orleans taken over by BESE because of several major infractions of state and federal regulations. Its school in Baton Rouge is supposedly under investigation by the State Dept. for possible violations. The former school secretary is suing the Pelican Foundation based on a claim that she was fired because she blew the whistle on efforts by administrators to implement selective enrollment in violation of state law. Charters in Louisiana are notorious for firing teachers who blow the whistle on their illegal activities. None of these teachers had union membership.
Also yesterday, the teachers at Crestworth Learning Academy in Baton Rouge are said to have staged a walkout because of a 20% cut in their salaries and benefits. My understanding is that these teachers have no union protection and could be fired without any form of due process. Did you notice that the Jindal administration is also pushing through legislation (HB 1023) that would ban teachers from having payroll deduction privileges for joining teacher organizations that are involved in political activities.
Teachers wake up! Jindal is not only taking away all of your due process rights, and making your employment totally dependent on student test scores, but he wants to make it much harder for you to join organizations that work to protect your rights and benefits! It is ironic that the teaching profession in Louisiana seems to be a tartget of attacks on consitutional protections.