Louisiana Board of Ed Votes to Lawyer Up Against Jindal Over Common Core Exit

The Louisiana state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted Tuesday 6-3 to hire outside lawyers to pursue a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) for removing his state from its Common Core test consortium.

The decision once again underscores the national debate sparked by the controversial Common Core standards regarding the power of the federal government and its often allied state boards of education over the elected representatives of the people, local school districts, and parents.

As nola.com reports, BESE came to its decision to hire attorneys after nearly six hours of debate and the failed attempt by three board members to keep Louisiana’s current tests in place for one more year. The board will meet again to actually authorize filing a lawsuit.

Breitbart News reported June 28 that a heated battle between Jindal and the state’s superintendent John White developed immediately following the governor’s decision to remove Louisiana from the controversial Common Core standards and from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which is developing a test aligned with the nationalized standards for its member states.

Jindal won the approval of grassroots groups opposed to the Common Core standards when he removed his state from PARCC. White and the state’s board of education president, however, immediately declared that Jindal’s move was illegal and defiantly asserted that Louisiana “will implement the Common Core State Standards, as well as… PARCC for the 2014-2015 school year.”

Jindal announced that he removed his state from PARCC based on the Louisiana Department of Education’s (LDE) unlawful decision to bypass the state’s procurement law which requires an open bidding process.

“PARCC does not allow a competitive bidding process which is required under Louisiana law,” the governor said during a press conference on June 18. “BESE didn’t follow the rules.”

Within hours of White’s statement that Common Core will continue, however, the state’s Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols launched an investigation into the superintendent’s use of a 2003 testing contract to bring the PARCC test into Louisiana, a move that suggested he was attempting to maneuver around the state’s competitive bidding contract procurement laws.

White, however, who is supported by BESE president Chas Roemer, argued that it was Jindal who was breaking the law by removing the state from PARCC.

In a legal memorandum released last Thursday, however, Thomas Enright, Executive Counsel to the Governor, debunked the claims made by White and Roemer that Jindal’s action to remove Louisiana from the Common Core standards and PARCC was illegal.

According to nola.com, BESE wants to use its omnibus testing contract to purchase PARCC’s questions, but Jindal’s Division of Administration states such a move is outside the scope of the contract.

“We’re at a crossroads,” said White. “It’s not a crossroads about Common Core. It’s not a crossroads about PARCC. Finance and purchasing have collided with academic policy, and there’s a question about who makes the decision.”

Similarly, Roemer argued that Jindal’s team was overstepping his constitutional authority by dictating the content of state tests.

“Who gets to determine the educational content of our assessment, and can that be determined through the procurement [process]?” he asked.

Nichols, however, said, “Today’s action boils down to one simple thing: BESE voted to hire outside counsel to determine if the Department of Education should follow state procurement law. We think the law should be followed.”

“The possibility that BESE would file suit over this issue is disturbing when they clearly have not followed the procurement law,” said Louisiana state Rep. Brett Geymann (R) in a statement to Breitbart News. “The Governor, in his authority, has required an RFP [request for proposals] process for the assessment which is not only state law but also guarantees we are getting the best available product on the market.”

“BESE and the Department of Education, who want to sole source the PARCC contract, have done a poor job in the entire process and this possible lawsuit is only hurting the students,” Geymann continued. “BESE and the DOE should use the existing Leap and iLeap tests in place now and then enter into the competitive bid process for the future assessment, begin development of our own standards, and drop the idea of a lawsuit.”

“Anything short of that is an exercise in arrogance and lack of respect for the wishes of the majority of the people,” he added.

A lawsuit “is probably the only way out of this situation,” said Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL), one of the leading state organizations that have lobbied for the Common Core standards, according to The Advocate.

During education committee hearings, parents reported to Breitbart News that Stephanie Desselles of CABL engaged in ridiculing behavior which included “snickering” and “laughing” at parents as they testified against the standards, to the point of being “disruptive.”

Roemer said the law firms that have offered to represent BESE without charge are Preis Gordon APLC, in Baton Rouge, and Barrasso Usdin Kupperman Freeman & Sarver LLC, in New Orleans.

PARCC has been in the midst of its own controversy since a New Mexico judge ruled at the end of May that its state officials must review a protest filed by American Institutes for Research (AIR) prior to moving forward with what could be a lucrative contract awarded to education giant Pearson by PARCC.

The judge said the RFP brought forward by New Mexico officials was “ambiguous” regarding where protests against the bidding process were to be submitted.

The contract awarded to Pearson was described by James Mason, a Mississippi Department of Education state leader for PARCC, who was a member of the negotiating team for the Pearson contract, as one of “unprecedented scale.”

PARCC state officials said that though a number of other education companies had inquired about the consortium’s request for proposals for the project, the fact that Pearson ultimately was the only bidder was not an outcome that should draw questions about the soundness of PARCC’s process.

In its letter of protest to New Mexico officials, AIR claimed that the solicitation for bids improperly “bundled” assessment services to be provided in the first year of the tests with work in subsequent years, a practice that unfairly restricts competition and favors Pearson since work after the first year would rely on a content/delivery platform already engineered by Pearson. Such an arrangement would require vendors other than Pearson to develop an assessment system with only cursory information regarding costs, etc.

According to AIR, the “bundled” system would allow Pearson to “transform the advantage it enjoys as the year-one [content/delivery] platform vendor to an advantage for subsequent years of the program,” as Education Week reported.

In essence, AIR’s legal action argues that as a result of the system used to determine the award, Pearson would end up having a “monopoly on completely different work for the next seven years.”




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Abbott Develops Human Trafficking Prevention Tool for Educators

HOUSTON, Texas—Attorney General Greg Abbott announced the release of a Human Trafficking Prevention Manual that is targeted to teachers and other education professionals who will be facing an onslaught of potential victims in this coming school year. The release of the training manual comes during a meeting of the Texas Human Trafficking Task Force that is chaired by General Abbott.

The goal of the human trafficking prevention manual is to help Texas education officials recognize and report potential victims of human trafficking. “Human trafficking poses a very real threat to young Texans,” Abbott stated. “The Office of the Attorney General’s human trafficking prevention guide for education professionals is designed to equip Texas school personnel with the knowledge they need to understand human trafficking, recognize how it might look for children in their schools, realize why this pervasive crime must be reported, and take the proper steps when reporting suspected instances of the crime.”

The guide (attached below) is designed to provide education professionals with information to enhance their abilities to identify potential victims of this heinous crime. It will provide school personnel with information that will further the goals of the task force to identify, investigate and prosecute human traffickers including:

•             The realities of human trafficking,

•             Federal and state laws defining and prohibiting human trafficking,

•             Human trafficking as a form of child abuse,

•             Risk factors for school-aged children,

•             Indicators of human trafficking,

•             Approaches to responding to an outcry,

•             Mechanism to report human trafficking, and

•             Proactive approaches for school districts.

The issue of human trafficking has long been a hot button item for the Texas Attorney General’s office. In 2009, General Abbott was instrumental in the creation of the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force. Since it’s creation, the task force has conducted training programs for law enforcement agencies and other professional who might come in contact with potential trafficking victims. It also issues the “Texas Response to Human Trafficking” report prior to the opening of each session of the Texas Legislature.  During the most recent session of the legislature, new laws were enacted that combined all of the recommendations presented in the 2012 task force report.

“Texas education professionals’ ability to recognize and report suspected human trafficking is essential to protecting the integrity of our classrooms and the innocence of our children,” Abbott concluded.

Bob Price is a staff writer and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.

HumanTraffick_RPRT2014 by BobPriceTX




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World View: Ukraine’s Forces Assault Pro-Russian Separatists as Cease-Fire Ends

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Ukraine’s forces assault pro-Russian separatists as cease-fire ends
  • China’s neighbors react to new South China Sea claims
  • In face of China’s increased aggression, Japan reinterprets its constitution

Ukraine’s forces assault pro-Russian separatists as cease-fire ends

Both Ukraine government forces and pro-Russian separatists in ease Ukraine appear to be digging in for a protracted conflict, as a dozen or so people were killed on Tuesday in firefights between the two groups. The government forces began an assault on the pro-Russian separatist positions after Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko called an end to a 10-day old cease-fire. 

Poroshenko had declared a unilateral 7-day cease-fire on June 20 and then extended it for three more days. However, during the cease-fire, Russian-led forces continued attacking Ukrainian fixed positions, killing dozens of Ukrainian soldiers. At the same time, U.S. and NATO intelligence ascertained that during the unilateral cease-fire, Russia transferred additional tanks, armored personnel carriers, anti-aircraft guns, and other hardware to the Russian-backed fighters. 

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has provided supplies of heavy weapons to Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad to conduct his “industrial strength” torture and extermination of civilians. Putin has no ethics or morals, and in Ukraine he was playing the usual game of calling for peaceful negotiations, using the time to rearm his troops. Putin and European leaders all were pressuring Poroshenko to extend the cease-fire past June 30, but he was receiving a great deal of internal pressure not to force his own armed forces to stand still as sitting ducks for Russian-supplied weapons. 

On Tuesday, Poroshenko gave a nationally televised speech ending the cease-fire: 

After a June 30 evening meeting of the the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine I, as Commander-in-Chief, have decided not to pursue a unilateral cease-fire.

Protection of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, safety and life of civilians requires not only defensive but also offensive operations against terrorist militants.

The Armed Forces, National Guard, the State Border Guard Service, Security Service have received appropriate instructions…

We will attack and liberate our land. Non-renewal of the ceasefire – is our response to terrorists, rebels, looters, and to all those who are making fun of civilians, who are paralyzing the work of regional economy, who steal the payments of salaries, pensions, stipends, who undermine and destroy railroad plumbing, who have deprived people of normal, peaceful life. …

Everyone who stood in the way of armed resistance to lawful authority, but realizing that mistake and wants to correct it, as president, I guarantee FAILURE to justice. Condition One – voluntarily lay down their arms.

Vladimir Putin responded as follows: 

Unfortunately, President Poroshenko has taken the decision to resume military actions, and we – meaning myself and my colleagues in Europe – could not convince him that the way to reliable, firm and long-term peace can’t lie through the war.

So far, Petro Poroshenko had no direct relation to orders to take military action. Now he has taken on this responsibility in full. Not only military, but also political, more importantly.

Everything that’s going on in Ukraine is of course the internal business of the Ukrainian government, but we are painfully sorry that people die, civilians.

Given his support of torture and genocide in Syria, I doubt very much that Putin is “painfully sorry” that civilians die. Also, there has been no confirmation that his “colleagues in Europe” agreed with his version of the discussions. Australian Broadcasting and Jamestown and Voice of Russia and Ukraine’s government (Trans)

China’s neighbors react to new South China Sea claims

President Obama’s recent visit to Asia was, like many of his foreign trips, supposed to reduce hostilities and encourage peaceful negotiations, especially between China and its neighbors. Instead, it seems to have encouraged China to more aggressively assert its claims to the entire South China Sea, including regions that have historically belonged to Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, and the Philippines. China is building a network of airstrips and military garrisons in the South China Sea in clear violation of international law. 

China has updated its famous “nine-dash map,” which depicts its sovereignty over the entire South China Sea with a new map that signals China’s treatment of its territorial claims as a “core interest,” meaning that any compromise in the South China Sea would be equivalent to giving away a part of mainland China. This is consistent with China’s repeated statements indicating that it will annex the entire South China Sea and declare war on anyone that tries to stop them. 

A web site reader recently wrote the following: 

Mr. Xenakis, you sir are very good in your craft. I may not have heard or read about most of the international incidents here in your column, but your articulation about China’s strong-armed annexation of a string of islets and shoals belonging to the Philippines is a fact I can definitely affirm myself. Proof is that one of these shoals, Panatag shoal and the seas surrounding it, has been a common fishing ground of my ancestors even before WW2. Now this area is surrounded by hundreds of large Chinese fishing trawlers, sucking everything from a grain-sized shrimp to giant, 10-pounder oysters. And these illegal fishermen are escorted by a numbers of Chinese coast guard ships armed with cal. 50 machine guns and powerful water cannons, used to intimidate and deter us Filipino fish folks from our livelihood.

China’s relations with its neighbors continue to deteriorate, bringing increasing criticism. Diplomatic relations with Vietnam and the Philippines have become increasingly hostile, and the two countries are forming an alliance with Japan against China. Even Singapore, which has always been very cautious about China, is now speaking out, decrying China’s militaristic approach. Reuters and Lowy Interpreter

In face of China’s increased aggression, Japan reinterprets its constitution

Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe has won his battle to partially abandon his country’s self-defense only military policy by getting his cabinet to approve a reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution, the clause that permits military activity only for self-defense. 

The change reinterprets the clause to allow Japan to use military action to come to the aid of an ally under military attack. According to Abe: 

We will not resort to the use of force (solely) with the aim of defending other countries. By being fully prepared to deal with any situation, Japan can foil any attempt to wage war against Japan.

According to the reinterpretation of the self-defense clause, Japan will use only the minimum force necessary, and only when the attack on the ally poses a clear danger to Japan. Japan Times

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Syria, Bashar al-Assad, China, South China Sea, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, Shinzo Abe 

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California Prodigy Scores Perfect 2400 on SATs

Maadhav Shah, a California-based prodigy, scored a perfect 2400 on his SATs, placing the 16-year-old in the the pool with a very select few who have achieved the same.

Last year, only 494 students out of 1,660,047 scored perfectly, according to the local Fox 40 News affiliate in Sacramento. That figure places the top-score-earners in the .03% pool of perfect test-takers.

“I started prepping a few weeks before, maybe five [or] six weeks before,” said Shah. “I was hoping I’d get a good score, I wasn’t expecting a 2400.” Shah was so surprised that he checked to make sure it was in fact his name and email attached to the score. “I was really happy when I found out I got 2400,” he said to Fox. 

Shah, 16, graduated with three associates degrees last month from American River College, while he was still just a junior at Granite Bay High School in Sacramento, California. He is now gearing up for his senior year, while preparing to apply to several four-year universities. He plans to pursue a degree in engineering.




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FNC Report: Haley Barbour Tied to Race-Baiting, Anti-Tea Party Radio Ads in MS

On Tuesday’s broadcast of Fox News Channel’s “Hannity,” network correspondent Ainsley Earhardt unveiled one of the attack radio spots that aired on stations around the state including WMGO 1370 AM in Canton, MS.

The spot urges listeners to participate in the vote and warns if voters fail to do so, it will result in the loss of entitlement benefits and funding for black universities.

“If someone tells you that by voting today, you cannot vote in November – it’s just a Tea Party, bald-faced lie.” Are you going to let the clock run out on today? By not voting, you are saying ‘take away all of my government programs, such as food stamps, early breakfast and lunch programs, millions of dollars to our black universities.’ Everything we and our families depend on that comes from Washington will be cut. Mississippi will never be the same. The question is, will you spend $5 on gas to vote, or allow the Tea Party to send us back to the good ol’ bad days? Vote against the Tea Party. Vote Thad Cochran.”

Earhart identified the group responsible for the ad to be a group called Citizens for Progress, which according to Earhart is a group tied to former RNC chair and Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS).

Partial transcript as follows:

HANNITY: Just to be clear, the owner of this radio station – because that’s race-baiting — is saying this came directly from one Republican group that was supporting Cochran against another Republican?

EARHART: Well, he told us who wrote the check. And at the end of each of those ads, it has to be connected to a group. The name of that group is Citizens for Progress. That group is associated with Haley Barbour.

HANNITY: Wow, he’s got some answering to do on that.

EARHART: Yeah, exactly.

We did reach out to both camps. Cochran camp says they’re denying all these accusations. They’re saying these are baseless and that they’re false.  

HANNITY: Cochran — I don’t believe that for a minute. That’s my editorial. Sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt you.

EARHART: McDaniel’s camp says they’re taking this very seriously. And they did send us a statement. Let me read the statement: “Not including the votes which were allegedly bought by the Cochran camp, our grassroots volunteers have already found around 2,500 ineligible votes. That is votes cast in the Republican runoff on June 24, by voters who voted in the Democratic primary on June 3. We are examining all the data that we can gain access to in order to launch a legal challenge. And our preliminary findings indicate that further investigation is certainly warranted after we’ve examined all the data, we will make a determination about possible legal recourse.”

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor




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