Monday, July 20, 2009

BESE soap opera continues

In EdLog's last post before going on summer hiatus, we learned that Gov. Bobby Jindal wanted Tammie McDaniel, one of his three appointees to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, to step down. As we return, the drama is still playing out. And it's getting nasty.

The governor gave no reason for his request, other than that he expected all his appointees to conform to his "reform agenda."

To most observers, McDaniel has been a loyal water-carrier for Jindal and scrupulously towed the line for her liege. The only question in any one's mind was whether or not she would accede to Jindal's request. Unlike some gubernatorial appointments, BESE members don't serve at the governor's pleasure. They are approved by the Senate, their terms are concurrent with the governor's, and they don't have to resign when asked. McDaniel can stay through the end of Jindal's current term if she wishes.

McDaniel says she'll stay, thank you very much.

According to this column by AP reporter Melinda Desattte, McDaniel has drawn support from her native Ouachita Parish, where she was a strategist for Jindal's election campaign.

Her colleagues on the BESE board seem to support her decision to stay and question why the governor wants her gone.

That has been the big unanswered question. Philosophically, she seems to be in lockstep with the governor's brand of evangelical conservatism. But she does have an independent streak, and most observers believe that her real nemesis is Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek.

McDaniel has publicly questioned him about insurance payments in New Orleans recovery district schools, among other things connected to the RSD. Her issues, it seems, have not been with Jindal's agenda but with Pastorek's management.

To this point, it certainly seems that McDaniel is the aggrieved party, a conservative educator and supporter of the governor who ran afoul of the powerful and prickly Pastorek. And since Jindal won't go public with his rationale, that has been the story. Until...

Enter Baton Rouge Business Report publisher Rolfe McCollister. Ever ready to do the dirty knife work of big business, McCollister happily shivs McDaniel in this column, a prime example of conservatives turning on their own.

McCollister calls McDaniel in turn a liar, an enemy of reform, strange, rude and an embarrassment. What had been a fairly civil, if unprecedented, disagreement between a governor and his appointee turned nasty.

So now the question is, whose dirty knife work is McCollister doing? Was it Jindal or Pastorek who dropped the dime on Tammie McDaniel and called in the assassin? What is the next chapter in this sordid tale of insider intrigue?

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