Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

The Hard Truth…Red flags in BESE race

14th November 2011   ·   0 Comments

By J. Kojo Livingston
Contributing Columnist

Some describe one behavior associated with insanity as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

If any credence is given to that then you’d have to ask why anyone would support a continuation of the policies that brought us here, especially during the past four years. You’d also have to ask why a New York mayor would sink $100,000 into political action committee that would fight to elect people to continue those policies 2,000 miles away from his turf. What’s the real agenda and the real prize here?

The BESE board race between incumbent Louella Givens and Kira Orange Jones has enough red flags to cover the state capitol building. Here are just a few:

The Alliance for Better Class­rooms (ABC PAC) is a new political action committee that that claims it was formed to “encourage and promote first-rate public education for all Louisiana children. ABC/PAC claims on its website that it “has established a steering committee of highly qualified individuals drawn from all walks of life.” If “all walks of life” means only white, wealthy, conservative businesspeople, then that is an honest statement. Otherwise, they lie. The monochromatic composition of the group is consistent with the values of Gov. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal who believes that boards and commissions should not be tainted with people who Black or less-than-wealthy. Of course now that the word is out they may find a willing, token Black to act as officials board ornament.

Second this all-white group has an interesting take on logic and reason. They acknowledge that “Lou­isiana earned a grade of ‘F’ in K-12 achievement in the 2011 edition of the Quality Counts report, published by Education Week.” They also acknowledge that “Louisiana ranks 47th in the nation in a comprehensive over­view of educational achievement according to The American Legislative Exchange Council’s annual ‘Re­port Card on American Education.’ They even admit that “Louisiana children are not getting the quality education they de­serve.” Then they bring out the insanity: Somehow they feel that Louisiana is “moving in the right direction for education reform.” Doing more of the same will produce a different result?

ABC is anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-local control of schools. They favor an education model that emphasizes competition. One could call it a Darwinist model of education.

Next is the problem of the company they keep. New York Mayor, Mike Bloomberg has donated $100,000 to ABC. That alone should send up a fiery red flag. Why are folks in New York trying to control education in New Orleans or Louisiana at all? What is here that is worth an investment that size when they can’t get school right in the Big Apple? This is not about children. It’s about politics and business. When that happens in education children who are not wealthy will suffer.

Much of this financial investment has been generated to elect Kira Orange Jones a BESE candidate whose allegiances and character are both in question. Her allegiances because ABC has put her up to run; her character because of her actions before and during this election. Not only have ABC and other conservatives put up money for her campaign. Bloomberg donated $5,000 directly to her campaign.

A Civil District Court judge last week ordered Board of Elemen­tary and Secondary Edu­cation candidate Orange Jones to “cease and desist from misrepresenting her voting record or her registration in violation of Louisiana Revised Statute 18:1463.” Orange Jones has campaigned claiming that she had voted for President Obama in November, 2008. This was pro­ven false when plaintiffs produced a sworn statement signed by Orange Jones in August of this year that she had never before been registered to vote in Louisiana or any other place. Louisiana law prohibits candidates for elective office from making statements they know to be false or misleading. Orange Jones was also found in violation of Louisiana law by the Louisiana Board of Ethics in 2009. (Board of Ethics docket number 2008-914).

It would bother some that Orange Jones had not bothered to even register to vote before seeking office but she doesn’t stop there. Orange Jones attempted to sway River Parish voters with literature telling them that incumbent Louella Givens had not worked for them. This statement that was only true because Givens did not become their representative before redistricting was approved in August of this year.

Voters have a lot to consider in this election. The move to eliminate local control of schools has been long coming but its purpose is not to better the lives of Black and poor children. It has more to do with wealthy people finding new ways to feather their nests while using some of us to do it.

This article was originally published in the November 14, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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