- Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - As they fight Louisiana’s use of the multistate education standards, Common Core opponents have raised questions about conflicts of interest and ties to organizations they say hold undue influence in Louisiana’s public school education policy.

The accusations have prompted legislation scheduled for consideration in a House committee Tuesday, after an ethics complaint was unsuccessful.



Among the complaints, Common Core opponents have particularly criticized Superintendent of Education John White for his affiliation with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers, which developed the testing material tied to Common Core that Louisiana uses.

Questions also have been raised about the sister of Chas Roemer, head of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, working as president of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools and about BESE member Kira Orange Jones, who received ethics clearance several years ago to stay on the board while working for Teach for America.

Some of those types of affiliations would be prohibited under proposed legislation.



Someone filed an ethics complaint against White in September, alleging improprieties because he received free lodging and transportation to attend PARCC governing board meetings and events involving other education groups.

Complaints are filed in secret, so it’s unclear who lodged the allegations.

But a few months earlier, one of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s appointees to the state education board posted a message on Facebook criticizing White for being a PARCC board member and alleging ethics violations in the Department of Education.

White was cleared of any wrongdoing, notified in January the ethics board would not pursue charges against him, according to a March attorney general’s opinion allowing White to get his legal expenses reimbursed by his department.

“The ethics board looked at it on the front end and on the back end and decided there was nothing there,” he said.



Roemer believes the ethics complaints, like the bills to add new ethics restrictions to the superintendent and BESE members, were backed by the Jindal administration.

“There’s no question in my mind that it’s all orchestrated,” Roemer said. “This is political harassment.”

Jindal’s chief of staff Kyle Plotkin and the governor’s chief political adviser Timmy Teepell said neither they nor anyone else in the administration filed the ethics complaint or asked anyone else to do so. Teepell said he told Roemer that he thought White was too closely tied to PARCC, but he said he didn’t threaten any action against White.

“There’s a big difference between me having a conversation with Chas about how I think John was too close to those folks and filing an ethics complaint or going find someone to file an ethics complaint,” Teepell said.

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