BESE: How To Buy An Election

haha2With the October 24th election day approaching fast, we thought it would be a good idea to take some time to expose some of the “behind the scenes’ action that has been taking place in regards to what is probably the most important election on the ballot. The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) has all 8 elected seats on the ballot. In the past, the BESE elections have received very little attention. The positions are non-paid and are generally sought by people who are committed to public service and have a genuine interest in the public school system of Louisiana. That has changed.

In 2011, facilitated by Baton Rouge businessman, Lane Grigsby, a number of billionaires such as Bill Gates, Alice Walton, Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg executed an aggressive attempt to takeover the BESE board. They were successful in grabbing a majority of the seats available, including those appointed by Governor Jindal, and began what we refer to as a massacre on the public school system.

The previous BESE board had already adopted the Common Core State Standards, and now everything was in place for corporate education reform to change the face of Louisiana’s schools. The BESE board began to openly advocate for charter schools, the calculation of graduation rates and school performance scores were altered, and poorly produced curricula without research based content was pushed on local school districts as a Tier 1 state approved product. Students of all ages began to struggle in classrooms across the state. Parents began to get angry and became vocal in their displeasure with what was happening. Here we are four years later. Let’s talk about what is happening, what will happen if this continues and how we can stop it.

You may recall that the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) is a player in the ed reform movement. On September 12, 2015, education reporter for the Advocate, Will Sentell, wrote of the opposing views of Common Core that the candidates for BESE would be faced with and the amount of money that was being directed at these candidates. The article featured a quote from LABI representative, Brigette Nieland, who said, “I am counting on getting eight out of eight.” This was LABI’s open admission of the intent to “purchase” these seats. You can read the article, here.

The following month, on October 1, 2015, Sentell published another article which detailed Lane Grigsby’s new one-man political action committee (PAC), Empower Louisiana, and Grigsby’s boasting of acquiring more than $1 million dollars from Gates, Walton and Broad, and his intention of focusing the money on three of the BESE seats; District 1, District 4 and District 7. You can read the article, here.

What does all of this mean to the average voting citizen in Louisiana? It occurs to us at BTA that most people don’t realize how this affects an election, or how people get swayed into voting a particular way on an issue that they aren’t particularly interested in. Well, the way they intend to do it is to swamp the media with their candidate’s name in hopes that when you go vote, you will only remember their candidate’s name. We did not include District 1 info, here, because many of its media outlets cover multiple districts. Districts 4 and 7 are limited to candidates in question. Let us show you where the money has gone so far, and where it will continue to go until October 24th. A search of the public information on the FCC site revealed the following invoices for advertising orders by Empower Louisiana at various television stations in Districts 4 and 7. We’ve also made the invoices downloadable in case you choose to look at them for yourself.

Money spent in District 4 to elect Tony Davis
Shreveport/Bossier Television
KTBS $39,140 Download
KSLA $38,425 Download
KMSS $6,000 Download

Total: $83,565

Money spent in District 7 to elect Holly Boffy
Lake Charles
KPLC $16,040 Download

KATC $63,895 Download
KADN $2,650 Download 1  Download 2

Total: $82,585

As you can see, this is a tremendous amount of money being spent on television advertising in an effort to gain your vote. We expect that twice this much will be spent from now until election day. What we want to urge you to do, as a rule of thumb, DO NOT vote for the person you are seeing on TV every morning, noon and night on every channel. We believe that people matter more in an election than money. Please remember to support the right candidate in these three districts.