Behold, The Usual Suspects

Today the defenders of rotten education in Baton Rouge gathered to put on a show – specifically to downplay and poo-pooh the state Department of Education’s investigation into allegations of cheating and grade-fixing within the East Baton Rouge public schools.

The participants at the gathering weren’t a whole lot more convincing in conveying their point of view than was the EBR school superintendent Bernard Taylor when he was asked about the investigation last week. To wit

Several elected and community leaders in East Baton Rouge Parish on Wednesday blasted what they described as erroneous media reports about a state investigation into possible widespread cheating in the parish school system, blaming both top state education leaders and St. George supporters with fomenting the controversy.

“I truly believe this is a plot,” said state Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge.

“State Superintendent (John White) should have cleared up this matter early on,” said Carolyn Hill, District 8 representative on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Smith and Hill spoke in the Claiborne Building, the home of the state Department of Education, surrounded by several elected officials and community leaders, including fellow BESE member Lottie Beebe, three other state representatives from Baton Rouge, the president and vice president of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, and Metro Councilwoman Denise Marcelle.

Pat Smith is a former middle-school teacher in the EBR system and has defended it against all comers since joining the legislature, including rather reflexive opposition to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform package. It’s hardly a surprise she would be heading up this circus, though to insinuate one has to be for the St. George incorporation in order to want to see academic fraud rooted out of the EBR schools is fairly suspicious and not exactly productive to her cause.

And Denise Marcelle’s involvement in attempting to deflect scrutiny of the parish’s public-sector activities is no surprise, either; the rumor mill had it that Marcelle was attempting to buffalo the owners of several retail sites in what would be St. George to agree to be annexed into the city of Baton Rouge before the incorporation petition is filed.

In fact, none of this is a surprise.

Nor does any of it have the slightest effect of slowing down the St. George incorporation effort. If anything, Pat Smith accusing the St. George organizers of plotting to embarrass the EBR school system by circulating allegations of academic fraud involving the grand-daughter of a school board member would be like jet fuel for that petition. It goes a long way toward proving what people in St. George already know – namely, that school system is corrupt, incompetently run and, outside of a few magnet islands, drowning in failure. And that middle-class taxpayers wanting a solid future for their children have little choice but to stay away from it at all costs.

Pat Smith, Denise Marcelle and the rest of the Usual Suspects don’t want any changes made to the EBR school system. They’ve proven that time and time again. They’d like more money going into that system, but otherwise they’ll fight to stop any alterations anyone will present.

Meanwhile, the St. George people have been lectured about how much good they could do if they’d expend the effort to improve the school system that they’re expending to escape from it.

OK, fine. So who’s fighting tooth and nail to get the Pat Smiths and Denise Marcelles out of office so this improvement can take place?

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