Gov. Bobby Jindal’s politically motivated attacks against the Common Core educational standards have become so heavy handed that even some of his traditional allies are calling him out. Until recently, Jindal ranked among the leading supporters of Common Core.
The governor changed his position after the state’s rollout of Common Core last year. Many students, teachers and parents complained that the new curricula were confusing, even controversial. That led to a groundswell on the far right, which was all it took to get Jindal to switch sides.
Anti-Common Core forces were all set to wage war on the initiative during the spring legislative session, but Jindal was a no-show each time a bill to weaken or kill the program came up. (That spoke volumes about the sincerity of Jindal’s newfound opposition.) After the session ended, he tried to gut the initiative administratively — and unilaterally — by going after the standardized test that is part of the Common Core program.
The governor claimed the state Board of Elementary and Second Education (BESE), which is constitutionally empowered to set education policy, failed to follow proper procurement procedures in buying the so-called PARCC test. That test was set to be used this academic year, which begins in a few weeks. With great fanfare, Jindal issued an executive order instructing his underlings not to pay for the test, arguing it was purchased illegally. That created a constitutional standoff with BESE — and threw Louisiana public education into disarray on the eve of the coming school year.
Jindal met last week with state Education Superintendent John White to discuss the impasse, to no avail. White, like most BESE members, supports Common Core. After the meeting, the governor’s top aide told reporters that Jindal’s main concern is Louisiana’s “history of public corruption” — a thinly veiled accusation that BESE and White broke the law in buying the PARCC test.
That caused even some of Jindal’s allies to gag.
I’ve been trying for some time to find an appropriate metaphor to capture the shallowness of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s political narrative. I’ve settled on the image of him as an ancient puppet master conducting a shadow play.
Shadow plays were a popular form of entertainment and storytelling in primitive cultures. Things were kept simple — often a single puppet master would manipulate two-dimensional cutout characters to cast shadows on a scrim — so that the masses could easily comprehend the artless tale.
From his flimsy ethics reform “gold standard” in 2008 to his deceitful annual budgets built on one-time revenues, from his emasculation of higher education funding to his (federally rejected) plan to privatize Louisiana’s public hospitals, from his refusal to expand Medicaid to his recent flip-flop on Common Core — Jindal’s major policies consistently lack depth and substance. They are mere shadows on a wall.
But they make for good political theater, particularly among his easily beguiled followers.
Recognizing Jindal’s shadow plays for what they are requires people to stop suspending disbelief, to turn away from the scrim and look coldly at the guy manipulating shadows and light — and at the rest of the political landscape, which grows uglier by the day.
Ah, there’s the rub. The whole point of a shadow play, or any other play, is for people to escape life’s complications and just be entertained. That’s as true in politics as it is in life, and so Jindal keeps giving us shadow plays instead of reality. He knows what his public wants.
Louisiana's reigning '90s alt-rock trio and perennial Best of New Orleans readers' choice recipient Better Than Ezra also has a philanthropic arm. The Better Than Ezra Foundation hosts its 12th annual Ezra Open benefit concert, sponsored by Ochsner and Sean Payton's Play It Forward Foundation, at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 12 at House of Blues.
Proceeds from the event benefit after-school arts and educational program at Hollygrove's Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School, where the foundation has partnered with Young Audiences. The program includes 30 minutes of homework assistance and a 75 minute arts education class. The Better Than Ezra Foundation partnered with the school beginning in 2010, and its donations include a playground, school supplies, an AV system and renovations to the teacher's lounge.
The band also plans to release an album this summer, its first since 2009's Paper Empire and nearly 20 years after the release of the hit single "Good," the ubiquitous hit of 1995.
The event (featuring performances by Better Than Ezra as well as Matt Nathanson and JT Hodges) includes an open bar and live auction. Tickets are available here.
The Louisiana Senate struck down a bill that would repeal unconstitutional language in The Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act, which was adopted in 1981 but ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987. Despite the ruling, the unenforceable act remains on the books. As a matter of formality, Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, proposed Senate Bill 70 — which made it through committee earlier this month — which would repeal the language in the law. With only five yea votes, the bill failed to pass. Claitor said he will bring it up for a second vote.
The law will continue to state that "public schools within this state shall give balanced treatment to creation-science and to evolution-science. ... When creation or evolution is taught, each shall be taught as a theory, rather than as proven scientific fact." It also says schools cannot "discriminate by reducing a grade of a student or by singling out and publicly criticizing any student who demonstrates a satisfactory understanding of both evolution-science or creation-science and who accepts or rejects either model in whole or part."
This Saturday, CBS will air the nationwide premiere of The Whole Gritty City, the New Orleans documentary that follows three marching bands — O. Perry Walker High School, L.E. Rabouin High School and The Roots of Music — and the band directors from 2007 to 2010. It closely follows five students, some of whom take a video camera into their homes.
Wynton Marsalis will host the film, from 48 Hours editor and producer Richard Barber and Andre Lambertson. It will air at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15.
Read more about the documentary in Gambit.
A new report ("A New Majority") by the Southern Education Foundation found that 66 percent of children in Louisiana public schools come from low-income households. The state ranks below Mississippi (71 percent) and New Mexico (68 percent). The south accounts for more than half of all low-income students in the country. For the first time in decades, the report states, 17 states' public schools now serve a new majority of low-income household students in preschool through 12th grade.
A majority of public school children in 17 states, one-third of the 50 states across the nation, were low income students — eligible for free or reduced lunches — in the school year that ended in 2011. Thirteen of the 17 states were in the South, and the remaining four were in the West. Since 2005, half or more of the South’s children in public schools have been from low income households. During the last two school years, 2010 and 2011, for the first time in modern history, the West has had a majority low income students attending P-12 public schools.
That average of 66 percent accounts for low-income students in rural areas (129,674, or 63 percent), suburbs (93,933, or 59 percent), and cities (70 percent). In Mississippi and Louisiana, at least nine out of every 10 school districts had a majority of low-income students. Eighty-two percent of school districts in Louisiana have a majority student body that qualifies for free lunch, or free/reduced-price lunch (90 percent), the meal program offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Washington Post notes that in 2011, nearly half of the country's 50 million public-school students qualified for free or reduced-price meals.
You'll still need a museum ticket, but you won't have to pay for it. Go to Smithsonian Magazine's website to sign up. One ticket is good for two people, though guests are limited to one ticket per household. A ticket is only valid for one museum.
A list of participating New Orleans museums is under the jump ...
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