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Update: Has Louisiana Public Broadcasting Sold Out?

February 3, 2013

I published the following post last week when I discovered that a colleague’s and my interview on Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB) regarding problems with the school performance scores was canceled for two weeks in a row.  I will leave the original post intact below. However, I would like to add that a few minutes ago, I did indeed see the LPB interview on the school performance score problems; that the presentation was clear and refreshingly untainted by reform-slant, and that the interview link is available here.

–Mercedes

Friday, February 8, 2013, 7:25 p.m. CST

Original Post:

February 2, 2013

The Louisiana school performance scores have some serious biases.  I have written to John White and BESE more than once about the problems with the 2012 scores, and I have chronicled my interactions with White and BESE overall here.

My colleague Herb Bassett has also investigated and found problems with the 2012 school performance scores, not the least of which is John White’s lowering the graduation rate in June 2012 to contribute to inflated high school scores.  Herb also followed the dictums of Louisiana’s Bulletin 111 and determined what problems the 2013 scores will produce. (In short, in 2013, elementary and middle schools will be favored at the expense of high schools because the middle school assessment has five categories, and the “average” [middle] category will be favored. In contrast, the high school assessment has only four categories– no “middle.”)

Both Herb and I were asked to interview for an upcoming piece on LPB regarding the inflation in the Louisiana school performance scores.  Herb interviewed on Monday, January 21, and I interviewed on Wednesday, January 23.  Our interviewer, LPB reporter Sue Lincoln, told us that the piece would air on Friday, January 25.

At 8:50 Friday morning, I received the following email from Sue Lincoln:

Herb and Mercedes-- Due to an electrical fire at LPB Wednesday night, we lost video edicting capability for nearly a full day, so my story about your analyses of the 2012 SPS will not be airing tonight. It WILL air Friday, February 1st.
And let me assure you, this delay has nothing to do with Supt. John White's push to try and get me to kill the story. My supervisors are adamant that the story IS going forward--script approved and production of the piece is now under way.
--Sue Lincoln
Southern Education Desk at Louisiana Public Broadcasting

Things that make you go, “Hmmm….”

Okay.  So, we wait another week.

Friday, February 1st, rolled around.  I looked for the cancellation email, but none came.  As far as the LPB programming guide went, it looked like we were going to air:

Two new statistical analyses of statewide school performance scores dispute the state’s claims they are proof of true student progress. Southern Ed Desk reporter Sue Lincoln digs into the data. View Additional Airings
02/03/13, 8:00 am LPB2
02/03/13, 2:00 pm LPB
02/05/13, 9:00 pm LPB2
02/08/13, 3:00 am LPB2

Friday, February 1st, 7 p.m., I watched the program and quickly realized our segment had been cut and replaced by on-the-street interviews and other hype surrounding the Super Bowl.  I emailed Sue Lincoln.  She seemed to be as surprised as I was:

Dr. Schneider--the story was ready for air. I do not know why it was not used.  Please e-mail Charlie and Shauna to ask them.  It's cwhinham@lpb.org  and  ssanford@lpb.org

–Sue

I followed Sue’s advice and emailed Sanford and Whinham.  I heard from Sanford this morning:

Hello Ms. Schneider,

An editorial decision was made based on the timeliness of the stories that did air. It is an important story and barring any similar circumstances it will run February 8th. You should have been informed of the change and I apologize that you were not. (Emphasis added.)

If you have any other questions or concerns please let me know.

Sincerely,

Shauna Sanford

Here is my reply:

Ms. Sanford, given the Jindal and White profound push to conceal the content that Herb Bassett and I are qualified to publicize, and given that the piece has been put off twice already, let me note:
I’ll believe it when I see it.
 
I am beyond believing email promises.  February 8th will tell.
  
Sincerely,
–Mercedes Schneider
      It was really important to show a feel-good piece about a football game at the expense to exposing the fraud occurring at LDOE.  See the fluff segment that replaced our story here. Equally important was the noncommittal escape clause, “barring any similar circumstances”:
     Mardi Gras is next Tuesday.  Surely some on-the-ground footage of drunk tourists could replace the tentative February 8th airing….
     Stall, stall, stall.
     BESE member Lottie Beebe phoned me to ask about why the school performance score segment did not run.  She observed, “You know, they’re (LPB) an approved course provider.”
     Conflict of interest.  A reason to sell out.
     For those not following the current education-related litigation in Louisiana:
On November 30, 2012, a Louisiana state judge declared unconstitutional the plans for LDOE to use Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) money to suppport anything except public schools. White’s Course Choice program, whereby business and industry could offer to” teach” public school students a “course” and garner virtually unmonitored MFP funding for doing so, was put in jeopardy. (White selected David “Lefty” Lefkowith, connected to Jeb Bush and Enron, to head this “program.”)
     However despite the judge’s ruling, White pushed approval of the now-unfunded program thorough a predominantly compliant BESE.  As an “approved provider,” LPB wouldn’t want to upset LDOE and lose potential revenue.  After all, a new legislative session is just around the corner, and Jindal could shave money off of MFP and set Course Choice up as a line item if enough legislators continue in their history as Jindal lackeys.
     And LPB would stand to benefit.
     Is LPB selling out?
     I realize that an oft-used reformer tactic is the “stall job.”  Don’t tell someone no; that’s too definite and prompts immediate, often indefensible, negative public responses. No, the preferred reformer tact is to make the honest folk use up their own time and effort countering the delays. Perhaps these people will grow tired and stop asking questions.  Perhaps they will just let the issue die.
     Both Jindal and White have used stalling numerous times when asked for information that should be readily available to the public.
     One of the reasons I began this blog is that I have no intention of “just letting it die.”
     I’ll see what happens on February 8th and proceed from there. Until then, the hundreds of people viewing my blog have the opportunity to know the whole story.
     Thank you for helping me publicize this injustice by reading my work.
2 Comments
  1. As you know, My education related stories suffered the same fate as yours. I’m trying other sources from now on, but have little hope as those deadlines with other reporters have similiary lapsed. LPB is eager to show White and DOEs side but neglect to show opposing views or contradiction to his narrative. As a result students, teachers and Louisiana suffers and people are lulled into thinking no credible counterpoint exists.

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