Get to know the Louisiana BESE Board.

This is information that every resident of Louisiana needs to know, but I am especially hoping that the folks who blindly support Common Core (CCSS) and say getting rid of Common Core would be a step backwards will see CCSS for what it is…a blatant attempt to disassemble public education and replace it with privatized charter schools for profit. Please, take time to read all the way through. Then ask yourself, is this okay?

For the purposes of this writing, the following entities are defined.

Gates Foundation: Provides billions upon billions of dollars to non-profits, political campaigns and educational systems to implement and support Common Core.

Walton Foundation: Same as Gates Foundation.

Lane Grigsby: A Baton Rouge business owner who has funneled millions of dollars into political campaigns via PACs and personal donations even reaching as far down as local parish school board elections. Most likely not his own money. Probably Gates money.

Pearson Publishing: The developer and publisher of the PARCC assessment.

Students First, Inc.: A non-profit that is funded by the Walton Foundation and actively promotes and supports Common Core.  Director, Tricia Sanchez, is daughter of Lane Grigsby.

Stand for Children: A non-profit that is funded by the Gates Foundation and actively promotes and supports Common Core. Director, Emma Bloomberg, is daughter of Michael Bloomberg.

Teach for America: A non-profit that recruits and trains people with non-teaching backgrounds to become teachers. Funded by both the Gates and Walton Foundations. Holds a contract with the Louisiana Department of Education to fill 500 teaching positions.

Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI): A non-profit that supports and promotes Common Core and is funded by the Gates Foundation.

Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL): A non-profit that supports and promotes Common Core and is funded by the Gates Foundation.

Educate Now!: A non-profit that supports and promotes Common Core and is funded by the Gates Foundation.

Chamber of Commerce: A longtime established organization that enjoys an incredible amount of funding from the Gates Foundation to support Common Core.

Council of Chiefs for Change: A non-profit started by Jeb Bush that is comprised of school superintendents across the country who support Common Core and Charter Schools and enjoys funding from both the Gates and Walton Foundations.

Eli Broad’s Superintendents Academy: A six week course that trains business people how to be a school superintendent, then places them in positions with the intention of dismantling the schools and replacing them with charter schools.

Background on the problems with BESE

Each year, as a teacher in the public school system, I am required to take an online ethics course as do all public employees and elected officials. It reminds me, each year, that I am not allowed to accept any gifts from my students valued over $25 because it could influence my integrity when grading their papers. The law appears below, as it is written.

Law: La. R.S. 42:1115 prohibits a public servant from soliciting or accepting a “thing of economic value” from persons that have or are seeking a contractual or other business or financial relationship with his agency, persons regulated by his agency, and persons that have substantial economic interests which can be substantially affected by the performance of his official duties.

La. R.S. 42:1123(41)(a) allows the acceptance by a public servant of complimentary admission to, lodging reasonably related to, and reasonable transportation to and from an educational or professional development seminar or conference held in any state of the US or Canada, provided that (1)the public servant is requested or invited to attend by the sponsoring nonprofit organization, (2) the sponsor is not a person seeking to have legislation passed, (3) the seminar or conference is related to the public service of the servant and (4) the public servants agency head approves the acceptance.

Superintendent of Education-Louisiana

John White: Calls himself a career educator. He was a Teach for America recruit. He taught a total of two years. He attended Eli Broad’s Superintendent Academy (6 week course) and became superintendent of the second largest school district in New York City under Michael Bloomberg. He ran the New Orleans Recovery School District for 1 year. In that year, the district scored 69th out of 70 districts in achievement. Was appointed Louisiana Superintendent based on his incredible performance record. He was recently made the Director of Chiefs for Change and  is a member of Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). He also is employed as an advisor to Pearson Publishing which wishes to hold contracts with the Louisiana Department of Education which is governed by the board that White influences with a majority vote. The La. Board of Ethics says this is okay.

Below is an illustration of the major contributors to the election campaigns of each BESE member. Keep in mind that BESE members do not receive a salary. Also, note that District 1 board member, James Garvey, contributed to several other campaigns.

BESE District 1

James Garvey: An attorney from New Orleans. Former member of the managing board of Teach for America, so he gets to vote on contracts they are awarded. The La. Ethics Board said this was okay. Votes 100% of the time in line with John White.  His major campaign contributors are:

LABI $40,000
Students First $5,000
Leslie Rosenthal Jacobs $6500 She is a former BESE member and director of Educate Now!
Stephen Rosenthal: Brother of Leslie. $5000


BESE District 2

Kira Orange Jones: Director of Teach for America (see above). She gets to vote on contracts awarded to the organization she heads. The La. Ethics Board says this is okay. Votes 100% in line with John White. Her major contributors are:

LABI $55,000
Leslie Jacobs and family $40,000
Michael Bloomberg $10,000
Cajun Industries (owned by Lane Grigsby) $5,000
Michael Moran (manager of Cajun Industries) $5,000
James Garvey $5,000
Lane Grigsby $5,000
Eli Broad (See John White description) $10,000


BESE District 3

Dr. Lottie Beebe: Superintendent of St. Martin Parish Schools. Mostly votes against John White. Largest campaign contributors:

Herself $47,500  Total raised $68,000


BESE District 4

Mary Harris: Elementary School Principal from Shreveport. Recently appointed to fill the elected position that was resigned by Walter Lee. (Note: Walter Lee resigned because he was charged and convicted of double submitting travel expenses to BESE and his employing school district. Ironically, he mostly voted in the majority, but not 100% with John White.)


BESE District 5

Jay Guillot: Owner of a large construction company in Ruston that has contracts with the State of Louisiana, including the Department of Education, which total more than $1.5 Billion. The La. Board of Ethics says this is okay. Votes 100% with John White. His major contributors are:

LABI $40,000
Michael Bloomberg $5,000
Charter Schools, USA $2,000


BESE District 6

Chas Roemer: Founder and co-Owner of Children’s Charter School which is run by his sister. Sister, Caroline, is also Executive Director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools. So, he gets to vote on charter school applications and the La. Ethics Board says this is okay. He is president of BESE and votes 100% with John White. His major contributors are:

LABI $50,000
Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce $5,000
Leslie Jacobs and family $15,000


BESE District 7

Holly Boffy: A teacher from Lafayette Parish who came out of nowhere to beat incumbent Dale Bayard. She is secretary of BESE and votes 100% with John White. She now works full-time for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The La. Board of Ethics says this is okay. Her major contributors are:

LABI $40,000
Lane Grigsby $5,000
Leslie Jacobs and family $10,000
Charter Schools USA $2,500

Note: The incumbent, Dale Bayard, raised a total of $10,000. This was mostly his own money. Ms. Boffy contributed $0 to her campaign.


BESE District 8

Carolyn Hill: A social worker from Baton Rouge. She previously voted with John White, but now opposes the majority. Her major contributors are:

LABI $40,000
Charter Schools, USA $3,000
Baton Rouge Chamber $2,500
James Garvey $1000


BESE Members at Large (Appointed by Jindal)

Connie Bradford: A retired educator. Mostly votes in line with John White.

Judith Miranti: College professor in New Orleans. Mostly votes with John White.

Jane Smith: Retired teacher and superintendent from Shreveport. Previously supported John White. Currently votes against the majority.

So, there are a few things here that are glaring. These are the questions that I have:

  1. How does an ethics board overlook all of these blatant conflicts of interest, but the one member who doesn’t always fall in line gets a conviction?
  1. What business does Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates and Sam Walton have in Louisiana Education?
  1. Why is it that only the members who have a history in the education system and who vote in the minority are the only ones opposed to John White’s shenanigans?

I also want to point out that all of the members who were supported by interest groups were also supported by the Bobby Jindal Election Campaign fund. In addition, he has been supported by the special interest groups. Now, he has done an about face on the Common Core issue. I’m not sure how that improves his chances of running for president. Also, Ms. Hill was supported by them and now has turned around.