This post requires a bit of background. Two weeks ago, state senator Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) threw a temper tantrum on the floor of the Louisiana Senate over a direct mail piece the Louisiana Federation for Children, a school-choice group, sent to Rep. John Bel Edwards’ district accusing him of standing against educational opportunity. Peterson was angry about the fact that someone might seek to sic a legislator’s constituents on him or her, as though somehow that’s an unconventional, unusual or especially dirty bit of politics practiced by only one side of a given issue.
And she offered up a challenge for the people who don’t agree with her on school choice. She said, “Bring it.”
Of course, Peterson’s rant came as her ideological compatriots in the Louisiana House of Representatives were howling about the governor’s school choice package – including the aforementioned Edwards, who went ballistic about the fact that a public records request was made for e-mail and other correspondence between himself and key members of the state’s teacher union hierarchy.
We watched with interest the arguments made by Edwards and his colleague Pat Smith on the House floor, and we noticed that there was zero daylight between them and the arguments being made by those union bosses. And the reaction of Edwards to a public records request seeking to find out just how close to the union bosses in question he really is indicates that perhaps that public records request hit close to home. At the time we offered the following…
Which suggests to us that the reason Edwards acted like such a squealing pig about the request is the reason Jeansonne wanted it in the first place was a grand slam – namely, that a review of e-mail correspondence between Edwards and Monaghan – or other teacher union bosses – would reveal that nothing he’s said in public to date didn’t originate from union talking points. That Edwards is nothing but a mouthpiece for the unions. And that Edwards cooked up this strategy, if you can call it that, of howling about things like local tax dollars, in concert with them.
And that’s significant because the teachers’ unions have been behind the opposition to every single education reform in this country in the last 40 years, so it would be instructive if not surprising that they’re calling the plays against this one in Louisiana.
What Edwards ought to do, if he really is interested in having all the cards on the table where education reform in Louisiana is concerned like he’s been saying he is since he started whining about how fast the legislation was moving last week, is release his e-mail correspondence with Monaghan, and Joyce Haynes, and their lieutenants, and his friends on school boards, and anybody else in an official or political capacity involved in this debate. Because if he does that and a picture emerges which is different from what it looks like now, and Edwards doesn’t actually turn out to be a stooge of the teachers’ unions but a sincere opponent of this package, then maybe we should take him seriously.
The guess here is he won’t do that, for the precise reason Jeansonne wanted those e-mails. He’s carrying water for a crowd which opposes any changes to the current system that would give public-school parents more control over their children’s future.
And based on what the public thinks of that crowd, Edwards would rather not have that out in the open.
Peterson, who has essentially parroted the same line as Edwards and Pat Smith so far, said “Bring it.”
So we did. But what we brought was more or less the same public records request Edwards squealed about.
Our request went to both Butch Speer, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, and Glenn Koepp, the Secretary of the Senate. We sought…
…any and all electronic and written correspondence between [the legislator in question] and the following four lobbyists and/or special interest group leaders: Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan, Louisiana Federation of Teachers Legislative Director Mary Patricia Wray, Louisiana Association of Educators President Joyce Haynes and Louisiana Association of Educators Executive Director Michael Walker Jones from January 9, 2012 to present day.
We requested that correspondence involving Edwards, Smith, Peterson and Sen. Ben Nevers, who we’re told has been huddling with the teachers’ unions and educational establishment at large and is expected to parrot the same lines.
We figured we might rattle some cages in doing so, but our intention was to shine a light on the degree of lobbying and/or collusion going on between the LAE and LFT and the state’s Democrat leaders in the legislature. Those same Democrats – and for that matter the union bosses as well – have painted every supporter of school choice and education reform as puppets of the governor, and we find that shameful considering what we believe will be shown as far more puppetry between the educrats and leges like Peterson and Edwards.
And we believe it even more earnestly considering the squeal Peterson let out to her e-mail list this afternoon…
From the beginning of this year’s Regular Session, it’s been clear that the Governor and his allies expected their controversial education agenda to be passed through the Legislature with extreme speed and without significant debate or conversation. This predetermination has encouraged those on the Governor’s side to resort to shameful political attacks in attempts to silence those who dare to raise questions about their agenda.
Their latest attack is focused on Senator Ben Nevers and I. This time, however, their partisan grandstanding stands to levy considerable costs on taxpayers while sending already over-worked staff on a more than year-long fishing expedition…
While tactics like this have no effect on my work as your Senator, nor on my willingness to stand up for what is right, they do cause significant strain on Legislative staff and incur considerable costs to the taxpayers. No matter what they attempt to do next, we cannot forget that we must continue work our hardest to guarantee that we are doing our best to serve our children and the future of this State. Real reform must be measured by the highest standards of accountability and a commitment to fixing what ails our public schools, not discarding the entire system and setting off into uncharted, and accountable, educational waters.
Continue to write your legislators and the administration.Your engagement can make all of the difference.
It’s not an attack, Senator. It’s a public records request. You’re a public servant, you ought to have nothing to hide and you and the other three Democrat legislative leaders we requested public information from ought to just disclose the correspondence in question in the interest of transparency.
If said correspondence doesn’t create or further the impression that you, Sen. Nevers and Reps. Edwards and Smith aren’t controlled by the teachers’ unions, then why would you consider it an attack for someone to seek it?
The squealing indicates there’s fire behind this smoke. It indicated so when Edwards was the squealer, and it indicates more so now with Peterson’s latest communique to her supporters – who should similarly ask her to fully disclose her relationship with the special interests behind her policies.
If she has nothing to hide, that is.