The little fake magician pulling levers in The Wizard of Oz told his audience to "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" when the secret of his trickery was revealed.
He'd been practicing what professional magicians call misdirection. Smoke, mirrors and noise distract the audience from the shabby reality of the trick. Keep your eye on the fluttering handkerchief in this hand while the other palms a quarter.
In today's Advocate, columnist James Minton pulls away the curtain concealing the facts behind Gov. Bobby Jindal's so-called education "reform agenda."
Minton writes that two of the state's highest performing school systems are starving because the governor has refused to increase school spending for the past three years. It is a story that is repeating itself in systems across Louisiana. Schools of excellence and challenged schools alike are struggling.
Teachers are being furloughed. Important programs that actually improve student achievement have been slashed by Jindal. Those include after school tutorials, reading and math initiatives, technology investments and stipends for nationally certified teachers.
The governor's spin machine is busily churning out misdirection, blaming teachers and school boards for his failure to adequately fund public education.
The fluttering handkerchief says "we can't keep spending a billion dollars a year on failing schools," while the hidden truth is that good schools and good teachers are facing disaster.
The secret behind the curtain is this: the governor and his allies are more interested in a radical destruction of public services than in improving schools. Like anti-tax hobgoblin Grover Norquist, they want to "shrink government small enough to drown it in a bath tub." What little is left, they'd like to divert to Wall Street corporations.
That is why the governor and company want a voucher scheme that could send some 380,000 children to unregulated private and religious schools. It's why they want to privatize prisons, pensions and health care. It's why the governor opposed even the extension of a cigarette tax aimed at treating cancer.
The real action is behind the curtain. It's there if we'd only bother to look.