Louisiana Senators Out of Touch

Today, the Senate HELP committee voted to accept President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. It was no surprise the the vote was split straight down partisan lines with 12 Republican Senators voting YES, and 11 Democrat Senators voting NO.

In Louisiana, both of the senators we have sent to Washington are Republican. It is true that pretty much anyway you look at it, Louisiana is a Red state, with the exception of a couple of pockets within the state dominated by Democrats. Yes, we did elect a Democratic governor, and the fact of the matter is…it wasn’t because of political beliefs. It was because the winner of the governor’s race appealed to the people of Louisiana by listening to their concerns regarding hot topics such as education and healthcare. How else could a Democratic governor cross over and win in a Red state? I believe that both Senator Bill Cassidy and Senator John Kennedy take for granted the (R) behind their name, and they are out of touch with their constituents. Here’s why.

The Senate HELP committee conducted its vote on the morning of Tuesday, January 31st. Cassidy elected to hold a FaceBook Townhall Meeting on the evening of the same day. Most would agree that it would have better served the constituents to hold a Townhall meeting BEFORE the committee vote to see where his constituents stand. Instead, he chose to hold it AFTER the vote to defend his vote. I couldn’t bear to listen to his defense, but here are a few things he said in the first 10-15 minutes.

  • President Trump is different than any president we’ve ever had. So are his nominees. The people elected him because they are ready for change. (Yes, indeed. Different as in “not qualified” and his only mention of education during the campaign was “getting rid of Common Core.”)
  • When we voted on Obama’s two nominees for Secretary of Education, I didn’t sense a commitment in either one. (Both had actually worked in school systems and led large systems. Devos has never served in any capacity in a public school setting, nor has she or her children attended public school)
  • Neither of those nominees knew of any programs for dyslexia. (while no programs specifically for dyslexia existed, the federal law known as IDEA offered protections to those students. When asked if she would follow through with the protections given to specials needs children, DeVos was not familiar with IDEA)
  • We need to make school choice a priority for those parents and student stuck in failing schools, primarily children of color, so that they can get the best education available. (Cassidy received thousands of calls from his constituents in opposition of DeVos and a handful of calls in support, yet he chose to vote on the party line instead of the needs of his people.)

Cassidy’s Townhall has been viewed more than 15,000 times. Over 4,300 comments were made with the majority them expressing anger over his support of Betsy DeVos. You can watch it and read the comments by clicking here.

Senator Kennedy is a bit of an enigma. I think people are drawn to his simplistic, no nonsense, approach. He doesn’t pull any punches and seems down to earth. I think that’s because he used to be a Democrat. Yeah, I know. Some of my Republican friends will laugh at that, but its true. When he was a Democrat, Kennedy was more in touch with the average person in Louisiana. Switching to the Republican party was a matter of survival in what had become a Red state. Even after switching parties, he retained some of his appeal to the average Joe. For example, in this blog originally published on the State Treasury site, Kennedy stated:

“Constructive change requires understanding, however. How many of the officials who will help craft a new direction for pre-K to 12 have first-hand knowledge of what a 21st century public school classroom is like?”

Kennedy said this during the time when former governor, Bobby Jindal, was feverishly pushing through education reform legislation. It makes total sense to me. If you are going to drive and set education policy, you should at least be familiar with a classroom.

I have also archived the blog here because this sort of thing tends to disappear when someone is reminded of what they said. In the same blog, he went on to say:

“…the state legislature should ask each of its members, all statewide elected officials and members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to substitute teach in a Louisiana public school at least one time in 2012. I’m not talking about speaking 20 minutes to a Civics class. I mean being an actual substitute teacher not just the public official and 25 kids for a full day.”

I’ll give Kennedy credit. During this time, he actually put his money where his mouth was and served as a substitute teacher for a day. But what happened to that guy that related so well to average Joe? He sought a national office. That is what happened. When John Kennedy decided to run for Senate, he knew he needed the support of the Republican party, both at the state level and the national level. The only way he could secure that was to wear his conservative badge on his sleeve and abide by the Republican platform. In regards to education, that means school choice in the form of charter schools and vouchers. It also means supporting the party’s nominee for president who now happens to be president.

Caricature by DonkeyHotey.

Here is where I think both of these senators have made a fatal mistake. If you stop 100 people of the street, it is likely that 60-70 would admit to being Republican. If you ask them what it means to be Republican, most, if not all of them, would simply say, “conservative.” If you ask them what the Republican platform on education is, you might get lucky and find a few of them that actually know, but if you ask them if they would support a candidate who supports charter schools, vouchers and privatizing public education, most would say NO, and the rest wouldn’t know what that means. I’m not saying the public is dumb. I’m saying they just aren’t aware of where the party stands on all issues, and don’t care enough to find out.

The question I have to ask is this…If this “school choice” is so good for the parents and students, why has it required so much money to convince the populace, and why aren’t the students and parents it would benefit screaming louder than those of us who oppose it?

The answer is simple. Both Senators are pushing a party agenda and not faithfully representing their constituents. They have chosen to support the agenda of the corporations, philanthropic nonprofits and billionaire donors instead of representing the people who voted for them. I believe this to be a huge mistake because by the time election time comes around, DeVos will have done sufficient damage for the public to be enraged. We shall not forget.

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