Activists: Corporate Cronyism Boosted Common Core Proponents to Victory on Louisiana Board of Education

AP Photo/Steve Ruark

Parents, teachers, and other citizens who oppose the Common Core standards in Louisiana say corporate cronyism propelled proponents of the highly unpopular reform to win the super-majority in the recent state board of education elections.

Louisiana Rep. Brett Geymann (R)—who has led the charge against Common Core in the state House—tells Breitbart News, “The recent elections show the tremendous influence of self-serving elitists. Millions of dollars were spent on state school board races that typically are ignored and have yielded only small contributions.”

Despite a strong fight by anti-Common Core activists, proponents of the nationalized standards won six of the eight seats up for election in the state’s recent Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) elections. As NOLA reported, the outcome enables state superintendent John White to likely keep his job since only a BESE super-majority can hire or fire a superintendent. White is a champion of the Common Core standards and, according to “compromise” legislation enacted in May, “new” standards are to be adopted by BESE in March of 2016.

“There is an agenda that is obviously centered on cronyism as even the former mayor of New York City who reflects none of the values of a deep red state invested heavily in the BESE races,” Geymann continued. “While the grassroots effort yielded a few bright spots, generally the anti-core candidates were so outgunned they were unable to compete.”

As The Nation reported back in 2012, a “coterie of extremely wealthy billionaires, among them New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, turned the races for unpaid positions on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) into some of the most expensive in the state’s history.”

The report adds:

Why would out-of-state billionaires care about Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education? The state board must approve the governor’s nominee for the powerful state superintendent of education by a two-thirds majority, and the 2007–11 board would have been unlikely to approve Jindal’s nominee, John White. White had been in Louisiana for less than a year at the time, after coming from New York City to head Louisiana’s Recovery School District, which the BESE directly supervises. A Teach for America alum, White had previously spent five years working as a deputy chancellor for the New York City Department of Education under Michael Bloomberg. Louisiana’s education superintendent administers the state’s educational system, but of particular interest to wealthy donors, the superintendent recommends which schools should be eligible for accreditation and state support to the BESE, which ultimately approves. In the past decade or so, that has meant that the state superintendent and BESE discern which charter or voucher schools are eligible to provide instruction in the state of Louisiana.

“While this is not a reflection of the philosophy of the majority of the people, it shows a disturbing trend that if left unchallenged could yield the complete loss of control of the education of our children,” Geymann explained. “This issue is carrying over to the runoff for Governor as many of the concerned parents are looking hard at the candidates for their position on Common Core and what actions they will take in the case of an apparent rebrand.”

Indeed, the results of this year’s governor’s race could determine whether the board gels on making many of its education decisions, since the governor gets to appoint three members to BESE. According to a new poll by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, Sen. David Vitter (R) trails state House minority leader John Bel Edwards (D) by 12 points, 52-40 percent, with Edwards—who is also pro-life, pro-second amendment, and anti-Common Core—earning the support of half the voters who supported former GOP candidates Scott Angelle and Jay Dardenne.

Vitter abruptly changed his position on Common Core last December after much pressure from opponents to the education reform and has been against the standards and the student data mining associated with them over the past year. However, Vitter and Edwards are not in agreement on all education issues.

According to NOLA:

“Common Core” has been a convenient shorthand, but the truth is the state board majority has supported a number of changes in education over the past four years, including expanding charter and voucher schools and using test scores to evaluate schools and teachers. They have stood squarely behind White, a rising star in the national charters-and-choice movement.

“The concerned parents and citizens of Louisiana faced a harsh reality recently,” physician and parent activist Anna Arthurs tells Breitbart News regarding the BESE elections. “That reality is that elections reflect the will of the people with money, including those that live many states away.”

Arthurs continues:

In 2007, only $250,000 was spent on the BESE election. Thanks to the arrival of Common Core and those heavily invested in keeping it alive and well (even if rebranded), we saw close to $3.5 million spent on the 2015 elections. This money brought out dirty politics full of lies and deceit, all to keep a pro-Common Core BESE in place.

She explained that both Vitter and Edwards appear committed to ending the Common Core in Louisiana.

“Both have spoken out against Common Core and our superintendent of education who is fighting to keep it in Louisiana,” she adds. “Both have indicated they are ready to veto a rebrand of the Common Core standards in our state. Since it was a governor who brought this mess into our state, we need a governor who will take it out.”


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