An Update on the Continued Constriction of Roemer’s and White’s 2014-15 Assessment Corner
So much has transpired in the situation regarding the state of Louisiana education for 2014-15. For those attempting to keep up with the situation, let me briefly summarize:
On June 18, 2014, Governor Bobby Jindal declared that he wanted Louisiana out of both the Partnership for Assessment of College and Careers (PARCC) consortium (the now-nonprofit that is responsible for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) tests) and CCSS itself.
In order to release Louisiana from both PARCC and CCSS, Jindal had the Office of Contractual Renewal (OCR) (part of the Division of Administration–DOA) begin an investigation into the assessment contracts that the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) supposedly had for PARCC tests. OCR froze LDOE spending on assessments at that time.
As it turns out, LDOE has no direct and properly-procured contract for PARCC tests for 2014-15. So, the Division of Administration (DOA) began an investigation into LDOE assessment contracts.
Meanwhile, on July 1, 2014, the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) held a special meeting, the apparent goal of which was to “explore” suing the governor for interfering in the BESE business of PARCC and CCSS.
Not all BESE members wanted to turn attention to suing Jindal. One of the outcomes of the July 1, 2014, meeting was a resolution by BESE member Jane Smith that Louisiana State Superintendent John White and Governor Jindal meet prior to any decision to file suit and that White report back to the full board. Her resolution passed. Smith suggested that the meeting be on July 18, 2014. The meeting was scheduled for July 17, 2014.
BESE member James Garvey also proposed that BESE investigate legal action. His resolution passed.
On July 2, 2014, DOA Commissioner Kristy Nichol supported a decision by OCR Interim Director Pamela Barfay Rice to restrict any non-OCR-approved BESE contracts or LDOE contracts to $2000.
The pressure is on the BESE majority and White.
On July 10, 2014, three BESE members (President Chas Roemer, VP James Garvey, and Secretary Holly Boffy) decided to “offer” Jindal the 2014-15 assessment option of using “free” PARCC questions as part of Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) tests for 2014-15. The trio wrote that in order to do so, DOA/OCR would have to unfreeze LDOE spending on assessments.
Within hours, Jindal said no to that “offer.”
On July 16, 2014, the same three BESE members– Roemer, Garvey, and Boffy– offered a second plan to Jindal, this time agreeing to undergo new procurement for the 2014-15 assessments. DOA Commissioner Nichol made it clear that any solicitation for Louisiana assessments would be done via a “team” to oversee the procurement process.
In the Roemer-Garvey-Boffy July 16 letter, Roemer tries to invite himself to the meeting between White and Jindal.
Roemer was not allowed to attend.
Also on July 16, 2014, DOA released its Preliminary Review findings regarding LDOE testing contracts. The findings highlight numerous issues, including LDOE’s not being forthcoming with requested documentation.
On July 17, 2014, three more BESE members– Smith, Lottie Beebe, and Carolyn Hill– publicly objected to Roemer, Garvey, and Boffy’s making the governor “offers” in a manner that makes it appear that the entire BESE board approves– and that without scheduling special meetings to discuss the issue prior to sending “offers” on letters using BESE letterhead.
The meeting between White and Jindal also transpired as planned on July 17, 2014. No agreement came from their meeting. Regarding the meeting, White stated that “we (the BESE majority and White) need legal clarity” (yep he used that word).
Regarding the July 17, 2014, meeting between, Jindal and White, Jindal’s Chief of Staff Kyle Plotkin noted that Jindal told White of the history of Louisiana corruption in politics and that the law would be followed regarding assessment contracts.
In other words, White (with apparent BESE majority support) really did a number with rigging assessment contracts, and all involved know as much whether all involved want to publicly admit it.
It seems that White also spoke briefly before the cameras on July 17. No clarity here. (Heh, heh, heh….)
Here is White’s 07-18-14 memo to BESE regarding his meeting with Jindal.
Also worthy of note: This week, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell approved BESE’s request to seek outside counsel regarding suing the governor. However, as Will Sentell of the Advocate reports, DOA might still need to approve:
BESE President Chas Roemer, who lives in Baton Rouge, said earlier this week that Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office has approved Preis Gordon APLC, in Baton Rouge, to do the work without charge.
However, the hiring may require the approval of Jindal’s Division of Administration.
ADDENDUM 07-19: Excellent debriefing article on given BESE member positions following the White/Jindal meeting.
Whether or not Jindal’s DOA will approve to have Jindal sued remains to be seen. However, what is clear is that if BESE sues Jindal, White better be prepared to fork over any subpoenaed documents that he is currently withholding.
White being forced by court order to surrender documents….
That might just make a lawsuit both worthwhile and fun to watch.
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