McDaniel answers questions about resignation
This piece provoked strong comments for and against what McDaniel has to say.
Tammie McDaniel, a longtime local educator,
resigned this month from the Board of Elementary
and Secondary Education. citing growing federal
influence in our public schools. McDaniel, who has served on our editorial board and is a former
editorial writer for The News-Star, submitted these
answers to our written questions about the reasons
for her resignation:
QUESTION: In your resignation letter to Gov. Bobby
Jindal, you said Louisiana public education faces
"unprecedented federal intervention," and suggest
our schools will be "controlled" by Washington.
What makes this the case? Why is 2010, when you
resigned, worse than last year, when you served, for
ANSWER: Last year, President Obama was promoting
health care reform that generated outrage
throughout America. All the while, his education
lieutenant, Arne Duncan, was huddled up with
Washington insiders crafting plans to make a federal
grab for power over public education. Armed with
stimulus funds, Duncan bribed cash-starved states
to accept national standards sight unseen by
dangling the prospect of millions of dollars in his
Race to the Top competition. This one act has set
the stage for federal takeover of our schools. Just
this week, the U.S. House of Representatives began
the hearings that will re-write No Child Left Behind.
If Duncan is successful, state and local control will
Q: You said in resigning that Washington
bureaucrats who don't know or don't care about
Louisiana's "unique heritage, diversity and history"
will dictate to our public education system. How so?
A: National standards are being developed in secret
by power-wielding think tanks. These groups will
align the standards with a national curriculum,
national testing and ultimately, a national
accountability system. Going forward, states will be
told they must submit to the national curriculum in
order to receive any federal education dollars. It's t
he Washington way. Send your tax money to us.
We'll call it our own and send a bit of it back with
our rules. Our current standards, which are ranked
among the best in the nation, were developed by
people who live here, who know our state and who
are deeply invested in the success of our children.
Frankly, I fear the national standards will not
measure up to Louisiana's rigorous standards.
Q: Is the governor, a self-professed conservative,
acting as a sentinel to keep at bay federal
intervention in our public schools? Why or why not?
A: Governor Jindal gives unilateral support to State
Superintendent Paul Pastorek. Pastorek's views m
irror those of President Obama's education
secretary, Arne Duncan. So no, I don't hear our
governor telling anyone in Baton Rouge or
Washington that Louisiana will call the shots for
Q: Which federal policies in specific do you oppose?
Why would they be harmful? Give examples.
A: The coercion of states to agree to a national
curriculum and national tests is probably the most
obvious problem. I am also concerned about the
unprecedented amount of student identifiable data
that the federal government is now requiring, which
may be a threat to student privacy rights.
Furthermore, federal funding now incentivizes states
to take away local community control of more
schools, a strategy that we already implement using
the Recovery School District. Based on the cost of
running the RSD, it's a strategy that may prove
unaffordable and to date, it's produced mixed
results. It's far too early to encourage other states to
take it to scale with billions in federal aid.
Q: In general, do Louisiana's parents, taxpayers and
education supporters perceive federal intrusion into
Louisiana schools? If not, why not?
A: I know our people. If they understood the kind of
power grab the feds are making, they would protest
just as vigorously as they do against national health
care. They don't know because our leaders are not
Q: Obviously, you and the governor are at odds
over your service. What do you think the governor
should do to safeguard the state's public schools
from federal intrusion? Name some steps.
A: Governor Jindal enjoys a national bully pulpit. He
knows Washington cannot fix education. He should
lead the fight against the feds. He ought to defend
Louisiana's constitutional right to educate our
Q: What specific steps will you take to express your
beliefs about what Louisiana public school
supporters ought to do?
A: Although I realize some who sit in powerful seats
may attempt to silence me with personal attacks, I
cannot sit on the sidelines. I am communicating
with like-minded citizens at the grassroots level in
an effort to send the message to Baton Rouge and to
Washington that Louisiana will not sacrifice our
children to federal control.
Q: How strong and independent is the Board of
Elementary and Secondary Education?
A: As a constitutional board, BESE has broad
authority to set policy and secure funding for public
schools through the Minimum Foundation Program.
Traditionally, Louisiana's governors engage heavily
in determining who the board appoints as state
superintendent of education and in setting his
compensation package. The legislature balked at
Pastorek's $450,000 package so it took the
governor's extensive involvement to make that
Three BESE members are appointed by the governor while the remaining eight members are elected. But
even appointed members should not be expected to
grant unilateral support to Superintendent Pastorek
when they cannot support his spending habits or
his liberal programs that demand federal control.
Frankly, though stakeholder groups engage with the
board, all BESE members are as independent as they
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