Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bought and paid for

Just yesterday, an EdLog post explored the link between political action committees and members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education who are aligned with Gov. Jindal’s radical plan to privatize education in Louisiana.

Former Gov. Buddy Roemer was quoted in the post as saying “institutional corruption places our elections in the hands of the mega contributors.”

Today we started to learn what those mega contributors expect in return for their support. A press release from the Department of Education excitedly announced that applications are pouring in from would-be “course providers” who will be dipping their beaks in public education’s Minimum Foundation Program.

One of the first applicants, the press release announces, is Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc., an industry group associated with ABC Pelican Pac, one of the state’s major political action committees.

ABC Pelican PAC contributed $110,000 to candidates favored by Gov. Jindal and his allies in last fall’s BESE campaign.

The term “course providers” appears in Act 2 of the 2012 legislature. The program is outlined in pages 26 through 32 of the 47-page act, which is currently undergoing a constitutional challenge from the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and others.

“Business and industry,” the law says, “can serve as quality course providers that offer course work in their particular field or expertise…”

A course provider is defined as “an entity that offers individual courses in person or online, including but not limited to online or virtual education providers, postsecondary education institutions, including any postsecondary institution under the management of the Board of Supervisors of Community and Technical Colleges, and corporations that offer vocational or technical course work in their field, and have been authorized to provide such courses by the state board.”

Virtually any student in Louisiana, including those who are in public schools, private and religious schools, or are home schooled, is eligible to take courses offered by providers, with the state picking up the cost through public education’s MFP.

Course providers will be paid “the market rate…up to one-sixth of 90 percent of the per-pupil amount” for each course taken by students. The money will come from funds that would have gone to the local school system.

ABC’s looming raid on public education funds is just the tip of the iceberg. While much attention has been paid to the private and religious schools that will get vouchers, little light has been shed thus far on the river of money that will flow to similar business and industry providers, proprietary online schools, education entrepreneurs and others.

But if the ABC experience is any indicator, we will see many connections between political contributions to BESE members and the course providers they will be called upon to approve for state funding.

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