Fine recall scofflaws to present teachable moment
Perhaps one major reason why Louisiana elementary and secondary education has so underwhelmed is too many educators are like many of the children they teach who need discipline – spoiled, unaccountable, and not all that bright. Those characteristics are on full display in the attempt by teachers who filed failed recall petitions against Gov. Bobby Jindal and House Speaker Chuck Kleckley to get fines waived for violations of campaign finance law.
Just like the attitude held by all too many in the educational establishment in Louisiana, the same arrogance of putting selfish needs before those of children and citizens finds itself reflected in both the genesis and execution of the recall campaigns and in their demands for special treatment concerning their actions in them. The Board of Ethics should not enable further this bullying behavior that could extend into a teachable moment for the state’s defenders of the education status quo.
Behind the Kleckley ousting attempt, the explanation for why the required report on it was 56 days late according to Brenda Romero is (cue violins) “she misunderstood the filing requirements for filing the report…. She simply did not understand that she was obligated to file a report within 45 days of filing the recall petition…. she contacted the Campaign Finance division for clarity. She spoke with staff, and was under the impression that if small amounts were collected from individuals, then she was under no obligation to report it at the moment. She maintains that staff answered all of her questions and did everything to help her understand, however, she obviously misunderstood. Ms. Romero maintains that it was not until when she saw a media report that claimed she failed to report in a timely fashion, that she knew she missed a deadline.”
And here’s the excuse from the one behind the Jindal attempt, Angie Bonvillian (cue violins again): “the group of four teachers that started the recall effort, did not know what they were getting into. She further stated that the first letter they received about the start of the recall had information that they did not know was important. She states that she read the letter, but did not really understand it. She maintains that they did not know that they were obligated to file a report within 45 days of filing the recall petition. Ms. Bonvillian maintains that it was not until when she read an article by a reporter that she understood the filing requirements. She states that she then contacted the Campaign Finance division for clarity. She spoke with staff, and asked more about the filing deadlines. Ms. Bonvillain states that had she known and understood the importance of filing the report, the 45 day report would have been filed.”
(As a public service to schoolchildren in Calcasieu Parish from where this pair hails who may have them in class, I offer the following template for those times when you all need a way to dodge your responsibilities, whether it be for skipping class, not turning in homework, not studying for an exam, etc., as an excuse to proffer to them: “Dear Ms. Bonvillian/Romero: I misunderstood the requirements for this assignment. I did not know I had to do it by the due date. I did not know it was important. I read the requirements for it but did not really understand it. It was not until other students told me about it that I understood the requirements.” What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander ….)
Now, to have a teaching license, much less employment as a teacher in Louisiana schools, you must have a bachelors degree, which in part means you should be able to understand English, be able to read it, and at least be able to reason at a fundamental level. So, let’s get this straight: we have two teachers of long standing who have been tenured, to whom it never occurred, despite their years of working in the public sector and obviously paying attention to education policy and despite that they did take the time to learn of the recall procedure, that they also might have some campaign finance regulations to deal with? And who, despite an education background where the communication of ideas is important, can’t understand simple written or spoken communications about a point of law it took me all of 10 minutes to find and comprehend? And that somehow they never encountered this information, or the urging to find it, from all the other people associated with the efforts, including those at alleged training sessions, rallies/signing parties, and at least one presumed operative of previous recall efforts they once crowed about utilizing?
If the reader thinks it’s unbelievable that people of such a background could be so stupid, perhaps go with it, because such statements have little credibility. They claim media reports finally alerted them to file 56 days late. But in reality, the media reports started three weeks before they finally filed, lawyers sympathetic to the state Republican party had questioned the lack of such reports before that, the state itself sent letters out reminding about reports, and this space only days after the reports should have been due publicized that very fact. And also that the group so brazenly declared themselves above the law when it came to releasing public records and that the content of the reports that were filed, compared to their actual activities, cast doubt upon the veracity of those reports, and it’s clear you can’t trust anything with this pair.
So, take you pick, these educators of long term of our children either are stupid or liars, perhaps both. Yet adding reprehensibility to the list, the last thing the Louisiana Board of Ethics should do when it meets later this week to hear their appeals of $1,000 fines each is to allow this duo to serve as bad examples to students by changing the penalty in any way. Children need to be taught to take responsibility for their actions, not to try to beg their way out of the consequences of their actions. Instead, the role model they present is it’s all right to be dumb, or mendacious, as long as you can find a way to wiggle out of whatever problems acting like that can cause.
But should we expect any other kind of behavior when these and other educators part of the recall attempts acted with such bluster and arrogance in every other facet of it? When these attitudes no doubt were shaped by an education profession in Louisiana for decades avoided any semblance of independent accountability, declaring any forces outside of its cocoon as any or all of incompetent or malicious in trying to do so? That watched generation after generation of children being cheated out of a quality education because it didn’t want to demand more quality out of its members because of laziness, insufficient subject area knowledge, and politics? And resisted all too often attempts to rectify these shortcomings?
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 12:00