Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pastorek slips legislative snares

Is state Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek very lucky, or as wily as a Borgia pope?

That's the question roiling Baton Rouge today. Two separate Advocate articles reveal that Pastorek slipped through snares set by his legislative foes just as easily as that BP oil evades efforts to capture it.

Lawmakers thought they had Pastorek on the ropes with passage of Senate Bill 302. Originally intended to assign letter grades to schools and school districts (the public apparently finding numbers too baffling to understand), the bill was amended to require the state school board to evaluate Pastorek every year and give lawmakers a written copy of the report.

Thinking they had staged a coup, legislators crowed Monday night and on into Tuesday morning that they had finally humbled Pastorek.

But as Will Sentell reports in this Advocate story, the House of Representatives didn't actually pass the bill, "even though the Legislature's Web site said Monday evening that it had won final approval."

"Even state Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie and sponsor of the bill, was surprised to learn on Tuesday afternoon that his bill failed to win final House approval," according to Sentell.

Score one for Pastorek.

The second incident came with the apparent failure of a top Pastorek aide to win Senate approval for a plum $160,000 position.

The superintendent wanted Karen Burke, the former head of the state's Recovery School District, to become assistant superintendent of the Office of Educator Support, a position that required senate confirmation.

Any senator can blackball a nomination, as Advocate reporter Marsha Shuler tells the story here. And more than one senator was apparently willing to drop one on the superintendent.

Denied the confirmation, Pastorek simply slipped Burk into an unfilled position that had been approved last August. The job pays $160,000 per year.

The maneuver won't win the superintendent any friends in a department which recently laid off 31 employees, but Pastorek doesn't see himself in any sort of popularity contest, anyway.

In this game, the score stands at Pastorek 2, legislature zero.

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