David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
The Louisiana Procurement

June 19, 2014

Randy Newman once wrote in the lovely “Louisiana 1927,” “what has happened down here is the winds have changed.”  He was talking about the flooding of the Mississippi of 1927, but now his words sound like they could represent the educational climate in “the Pelican State.”

The changing winds could be directed north, if the prognosticators are correct in assessing Governor Bobby Jindal’s political ambitions.  While I try to stay away from the controversies of secondary education (there is enough on our plate in higher education), I can’t but be astonished by his unilateral decision to pull Louisiana out of the national commitment to Common Core Standards.  For the record, I am not expressing any opinion about the Common Core, but merely wish to focus on this action by a single man.  I am not so sure I can bypass an opinion about his desire to focus on “Louisiana standards and Louisiana tests for Louisiana students.”  Everyone may be saved by the fact that as I approach 250 blogs, I can’t remember where I have previously made some Creole cracks. 

Let’s face it, it takes some major hubris (or in more recent parlance, some really big balls) to single-handedly derail something that your own local educational leadership has been building towards.  You can read the article to learn more about Jindal’s about-face, the potential influence of the far right wing of the Republican party, and Jindal’s potential positioning to run for president.

There is a point where this story meets higher education (besides the obvious about college preparedness that comes out of whatever any state decides for its secondary education):  Louisiana is searching for its next higher education commissioner.  To give readers some background, most states, but not Michigan, have some kind of higher education ruling authority that theoretically sets policies and/or coordinates standardization and collaboration across the institutions in the state.  Since Michigan has never had one, I have at times wished for such an entity that would force some common agreement across colleges and universities (such as core transferable credits). Then, there are other days when I am much happier simply knowing that I have to fight battles with every institution I need to partner with, rather than have some political entity settle (heck, choose) those battles for me.

So, Louisiana-ians, be ready for the fun of this political appointment with your Washington-focused governor.  First off, you got a search firm, AGB, leading the search (see any number of recent blogs for my feelings about search committees), a head of the committee who is, as far as I can tell, a realtor (and trust me I don’t have enough space to do anything with his name: W. Clinton ‘Bubba’ Raspberry, except to openly ask, “what would W. stand for that would seem less appropriate than “Bubba”), and the ultimate power game with a governor who is showing he will make decisions for his political gain and not for the good of the state.

Also, note in this story the debate about how the candidates for the position will know what their salary might be.  The article even suggests that a person could be hired for several  months before learning what the actual salary is.  Given the $200,000 or so benchmark suggested here, I can guarantee one thing: it will probably be less than many of the presidents of the institutions he is supposed to “commission” over. Should be real fun times in Louisiana ahead.

With all due apologies to Randy Newman, “six feet of crap in the streets of Evangeline.”