It is often said that legislatures are bought and paid for. It’s hard for grassroots groups and citizens to be heard over the rumble of the lobbying groups with dollars.
It’s not often you find written evidence of who exactly holds the power.
While researching the impact of for-profit charter school chains applying to open charter schools in Lafayette Parish in 2013, the Lafayette Parish parent activist group Swamp BESE located a document called the ‘Louisiana Charter Operator Pitch Book’ at the Louisiana Department of Education website. LDOE apparently does marketing directly to charter school corporations around the nation using this ‘pitch book’, as LDOE tries to get more out-of-state corporations to open charter school chains in Louisiana.
Document link here:
Swamp BESE members found several things about this ‘pitch book’ disturbing. One, it portrays the New Orleans charter school experiment as a great success when many charter schools are actually failing. Two, it clearly lists a coalition of lobby groups that support privatization and the corporate charter school ‘reforms.’ The bottom-line of lobby groups in the coalition depends directly on their support of the corporate ‘reforms,’ particularly the expansion of charter schools.
The groups identified on page 9 of the ‘pitch book’ including LABI (Louisiana Association of Business and Industry), LAPCC (Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools) and Stand For Children, form a corporate coalition that almost invariably aligns with the positions of John White and LDOE at the state capitol in the House and Senate Education Committees, and with the majority on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. This coalition almost invariably aligns against the positions of parent and educator groups who are working for accountability, fairness, and equity in place of privatization policies. Lobbyists at the capitol for this corporate coalition act like they own the place, and according to LDOE’s ‘pitch book’, they apparently do.
On page 9 the ‘pitch book’ lists the ‘coalition’ members, and states:
“One hundred percent of anti-reform legislation stopped by coalition”.
This coalition actually fights the policies that parents and educators consider ‘real’ reform. This coalition supports fake corporate reform and privatization policies, which have become the status quo.
Page 9 of the ‘pitch book’ also states:
“Highly Effective Advocacy. Grassroots and Grasstops supporting reform.”
Again, the reform is fake – but what isn’t fake is the use of the term ‘grasstops’ to describe this coalition. Clearly groups like LABI, CABL and LAPCC are grasstops (the opposite of grassroots) – where the agenda is top down, and may be straight from corporate HQ or a national agenda.
The ‘pitch book’ is a clear declaration by Louisiana’s Department of Education of exactly who has bought and paid for them, and it announces legislative complicity. It is definitely NOT grassroots parent and educator groups who have a substantive impact on LDOE policy, BESE, or the legislature. Grassroots groups generally fail to bring along lobbyists with money when they champion real – not corporate – reforms.
(To examine how a state Department of Education sells itself to charter school corporations, a resource library including the ‘pitch book’ can be found online at the Louisiana Believes LDOE website. At the “Louisiana Believes” homepage select ‘Schools’, then ‘Charter Schools’, then under “You Might Also Like” select ‘Charter School Resource Library’. For the pitch book, under “Start a Charter School” select ‘Guide – LA Charter Operator Pitch Book.’ )