Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Independent Groups' Concerns Over Master Plan Increase as Vallas and RSD Play the Fear Card

....This just in from the Times Picayune:

Two independent groups raised red flags about the long-term financing behind the city's ambitious and unprecedented school construction plan, and probed school officials for more details about the costs of individual projects at a meeting of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Wednesday.

Representatives of Tulane University's Cowen Institute and the Bureau of Governmental Research argued that if money can not be found for later phases of the plan - which they agreed is a likely scenario -- it would exacerbate existing inequities in a city where children have long had unequal access to quality school programs and buildings.

Specifically, they said it would lead to a situation where some students attend school in state-of-the-art buildings while others remain in decrepit, outdated buildings.

There seems to be a developing consensus that this school facilities master plan is unacceptable. Wanna know why?

It's because people are using their skills of observation and logic to inform a factual reality.

And the reality is that this master plan is seriously deficient.

We close more schools than we build. The financing beyond phase 1 is nonexistent and increasingly unlikely to ever materialize. We concentrate limited resources into masturbatory wonders for the architectural class instead when the times call for a prudent allocation of resources that will get our kids into sustainable facilities as soon as possible.

But I want to discuss Paul Vallas' current talking point to the media. The company line is that we need to improve this plan as soon as possible and that any problems in the document can be fixed after the fact. Why can't the changes be made BEFORE we have to vote on the thing?

Vallas says it's because delays could result in our already-pledged funds being pulled.

"At some point we have got to start building," said RSD Superintendent Paul Vallas.

Unfortunately, I can't find a direct quote in a mainstream source but Mr. Vallas has explicitly explained that master plan approval delays could result in the loss of already-pledged monies. He made this point at the master plan public hearing at City Council.

A few points about this argument.

First, it is a typical post-K line we've all heard before about why we need to approve poorly contrived pet projects without question or debate. "WE'LL LOSE THE MONEY/REIMBURSEMENT COMPLETELY WE HAVE BUILD NOW WE HAVE TO KNOCK IT DOWN NOW SPEND NOW NOW NOW."

Second, if indeed there's a risk we might lose funding, guess who's fault it is?

The community has had this plan for less than sixty days. The RSD has been working on it since June of 2007. It was supposed to have been released last spring, then early last summer. It was finally presented to the public the week Gustav hit.

So don't feed us this BS about the delays caused by community concerns. How about the RSD planning team? How about the fact that when Pastorek saw his preliminary draft last May, he had to send the team back to the drawing board? How about the fact that even after that, Concordia-Parsons ultimately produced a document that is being widely criticized for a broad swath of structural and ideological flaws?

It ain't us that have been holding up this process - it's been them!

Third, and I think this is the real reason Paul Vallas is in such a hurry - not this empty lost funding threat - is that the deeper we get into this inevitable economic recession, the less realistic the master plan becomes. If we don't approve this thing right now, the master plan will go from being perceived as misguided, flawed, and unrealistic to being perceived as a parody of a fantasy.

This to me all seems like a bunch of 'let's move money around' horse crap. It's like how Vallas spends millions of dollars on high-tech Promethean boards for RSD classrooms when children aren't being provided with the basics, you know, like TEXTBOOKS TO TAKE HOME.

When Paul Vallas runs for governor of Illinois in 2010, as rumored, he'll get to say sexy little things in his commercials and pamphlets like:

"Spent x million dollars on state of the art classroom technology for New Orleans."
"Spent x million dollars on brand new school facilities."

Because he won't ever have to actually describe what we didn't get for expenditures that were, in reality, wasteful, premature, mis-prioritized, or worse.

Never mind that the economic crisis ensures incredible disparities in our public school system should we adopt a master plan crafted in an imagined economic vacuum. Never mind what happens when New Orleans is stuck in 2013 with what I compelled them approve in 2008.



The Carver High School alumni association has issued a statement condemning the master plan.


jeffrey said...

Strange. I just read here that the problem with the SFMP "isn't so much the nuts and bolts but the process behind it"

Not sure why it has to be one or the other there. It seems to me that if I were trying to sell a bag of bullshit, I might not employ the most open and transparent process to do so.

E said...

You're right. It isn't one or the other, Jeffrey. It is certainly both. I don't know why David leads like that.

Anonymous said...

For all of the problems that RSD has, the promethean boards were a wise investment. Sending textbooks home to current RSD high school students would actually be a larger waste of money

Leigh C. said...

MoneyMoneyMoney! NowNowNow! DrillDrillDrill!

I see a pattern...will Vallas be running as a GOP candidate? He's got the lingo down...