Penny Dastugue let the cat out of the bag yesterday when she told the AP that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education won’t be conducting a national search for the next Louisiana education superintendent.
The head of the state education board doesn’t expect a national search for candidates to be state education superintendent.
Penny Dastugue, president of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, says she expects any search would be brief, if there is one.
Dastugue says BESE may not search at all. She says she believes Gov. Bobby Jindal’s choice for the job – Recovery School District John White – will get the support of the new board seated in January.
She says education board members aren’t circulating other names to be superintendent.
Jindal needed eight members of BESE to get White confirmed. He’s got nine now – his three appointees on the board, of which Dastugue is one, the two elected members friendly to his cause who were re-elected this year (Chas Roemer and Jim Garvey) and three of the four new board members (Holly Boffy, Carolyn Hill, Kira Orange Jones and Jay Guillot).
That kind of power has consequences. Jindal wants White, so he gets him. This wasn’t unknown to the voters, who were looking for significant change in the way Louisiana delivers K-12 education and elected people who will deliver it.
White is going in, and Louisiana will embark on attempts to greatly increase competition and school choice in Louisiana.
Will that be a panacea for Louisiana’s elementary and secondary education? Of course not. Our school performance is lousy because we have lots of lousy students, most of whom have lousy parents and many of whom are taught by lousy teachers. That’s not something you’re going to fix overnight regardless of the brilliance of the system you design.
But what makes school choice and competition better than the command-economy system Jindal and the new BESE folks want to replace is that when a school is lousy, folks don’t have to send their kids to it. And the lousy school will stand out as a result, prompting the powers that be to do something about it rather than protect it.
Either by having BESE pull a charter, like the board did earlier this year in the case of Abramson Science and Technology School when the Turkish Muslim outfit that ran it let child abuse go on there and then sought to bribe state regulators to make their problems go away, or by shutting the school down.
That doesn’t happen with ordinary schools. They go on stinking the place up forever, because it’s politically easier to continue inflicting crappy schools on the populace than to break anybody’s rice bowl.
People know this, and they know there are political cronies of their local school board petty lords who make a fortune on consulting contracts (some of the proceeds of which find their way into the campaign accounts of said petty lords) on a recurring basis, and they’ve had it.
So we’re going to try something new. And the teachers’ unions and local school board crowds will hate John White every bit as much as they hated his predecessor Paul Pastorek. White is less overtly controversial than Pastorek, but he’s just as committed to breaking down that dysfunctional system – and that’s enough to make him the enemy of the state’s educational establishment.
Get ready for the fireworks.