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BESE Member Kira Orange Jones may need to relinquish post

Kira Orange Jones

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Kira Orange Jones, who represents New Orleans, may need to give up her state board post, according to a draft advisory opinion released this week by the Louisiana Ethics Board.

The proposed opinion, which the ethics board will consider in July, says Jones isn’t allowed to work as local director of Teach for America and serve as a state board member. That’s because the state education board approved a near $1 million contract with Teach For America last year – and they’re likely to approve a similar one this fall.

Teach For America, a teacher recruitment pool that pulls recent college graduates to work in public school classrooms, has been a staple in New Orleans education in the years after Hurricane Katrina. The Louisiana Department of Education contracts with the organization each year to train and place hundreds of teachers in public schools, and the department must get the education board’s approval before entering into these contracts.

Jones’ board seat would enable her to approve a contract her organization has a vested interest in, which isn’t in line with state ethics laws, the opinion says. Essentially, the opinion means that Jones must choose if she wants to avoid conflict—her livelihood, or her volunteer state board position.

But Jones’ counsel, Jim Babst, said that’s not the way he sees the law. His office requested the opinion in February, to make sure Jones wasn’t breaking any rules. He says that Jones should be able to simply abstain from voting on the contract, and that should take care of the issues raised.

“It probably wouldn’t come up again until the fall, and as we read the law, she gets to recuse herself at that time,” Babst said.

Babst said as much in his request to the ethics board, and added that although Jones would abstain, she could legally participate in the discussion and debate of a Teach For America contract, provided she makes her alliance with the organization part of the public record.

Still, the proposed opinion says Jones can’t receive compensation from Teach for America while serving on the state board. The ethics board was set to consider the draft proposal on Friday, June 15, but Jones requested that it be moved to the board’s July 20 meeting, because she is out of town this week, Babst said.

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  • Alsion Reed

    Doesnt make sense…arent other board members associated with schools in some way shape or form…. she can just recluse herself from the vote. WE NNED HER!

  • There is a conflict of interest present which goes beyond simply whether or not to vote on renewal of a specific TFA contract. A person who earns his or her income from an entity which benefits both directly and indirectly from the decisions of a public board should not sit on that board.

    It’s Public Ethics 101; a person should not simultaneously be a regulator and an employee of an industry which is regulated by that board.

  • The state has been contracting with Teacher for America for a number of years and it would seem Ms. Jones should never have been allowed to run for this office.

    But she is not the only one skirting the ethics law.

    BESE Member Chas Roemer & Caroline Roemer Shirley had some problems with the Ethics Board also? That they were told just to not discuss schools? Chas Roemer – brother of Caroline Roemer Shirley (Louisiana Association of Charter Schools) http://lacharterschools.org/, father Buddy Roemer.

    BESE Member Jim Garvey – Advisor – Jefferson Community School received $87,000 per student a school year. For four years, Garvey was a member of the Board of Directors of Jefferson Community School and served a term as Chairman of the Board of Directors. He served on the Managing Board of Teach For America’s New Orleans Chapter.

    But ethics has not been Bobby Jindal’s strong suit and his backing of these candidates for the BESE board trumps any impropriety.

  • Nola Ethics

    It’s a clear violation of the three state ethics laws referenced in the linked opinion in the article. As much as I’d like to see her serve I’m more concerned with the integrity of the BESE office. Given this city’s history of cronyism and corruption I’d think the solution here is a no brainer. Leve the job or the board. You think it would be ok for a mayor or city councilperson to hold a million dollars in city contracts for a business they were simultaneously a CEO of?

    Come on now, let’s keep it clean here.

  • charmaine mceachern

    Its a nice cozy setup….reeks of cronyism…..there is definately a conflict of interest but that doesnt seem to bother this Governor…….one iota…….he has used his time to stack the deck against public education in La….and the media, except for a few outlets have given him a free pass……

  • Jane

    Wake up Louisiana. If you start digging into most of the BESE members you will find a direct link to corruption. Ms. Jones wasnt say enough to realize she was a pawn. They needed her vote for John White. They dont need her vote for TFA so I seriously doubt she will have the support to keep her seat as she did to win it. It is really a shame that smart progressive people like Ms. Jones are blinded by the promise of power and prestige. The current BESE Board Members are nothing but department puppets. They dont even discuss issues before they vote. They voted in favor of a multi million dollar construction contract several months ago with no discussion and BESE member Jay Guillot’s company will do some of the work as a sub contractor. BESE is voting on the Department budget next week. Everyone should take a really close look at what is being cut, being added to, and who is getting paid what. Since everyone is chatting it up about ethics violations we are missing the real show.

  • Not even a question….clear violation of the rules. In the real world the main stream media would have raised the question the day she mentioned her interests in the running for the BESE Board. One can understand her attorney trying to justify her presence her board, he paid to defend her regardless of the circumstances. For the BESE Board to take this lightly and not act according to the law feeds into the horrible reputation of the corruption that has plagued our state for years.

  • Pearl Cantrelle

    I am confused. Where are all of those investigative reporters? Do they not know what’s going on or are they not concered? Are they too busy with other more important matters or is there just too much wrong doing that there isn’t enough of them to go around?

    I think that this kind of thing could me a good High School Civic Class project. Then they could send their findings to the State Ethics Board, State Attorney, Gov., Mayor, City Attorney and ALL News Media. Wouldn’t that be something?

  • Pearl Cantrelle

    I am confused. Where are all of those investigative reporters? Do they not know what’s going on or are they not concerned? Are they too busy with other more important matters or is there just too much wrong doing that there isn’t enough of them to go around?

    I think that this kind of thing could be a good High School Civic Class project. Then they could send their findings to the State Ethics Board, State Attorney, Gov., Mayor, City Attorney and ALL News Media. Wouldn’t that be something?

  • Russell Counterman

    The BESE Board President Penny Dastugue has said that the board has a sitting superintendent, Walter Lee, and an administrator at a local school district, Lottie Beebe, who both vote on matters that have a direct impact on their employers. Why haven’t these board members come under the same scrutiny as Kira Orange Jones? If Ms. Jones is required to step down, then certainly these two members must also step down.

  • @Russell Counterman….perhaps because Louisiana public school superintendents and administrators aren’t entering into contracts with the Louisiana Dept of Education to sell services to it. Teach For America, on the other hand, contracts with the state to provide teachers and professional development services, and its closely associated KIPP receives contracts to run charter schools.

    TFA therefore has a multi million dollar business relationship with the state Dept. of Ed. which is unlike that of local school districts, which are themselves the creation of the State Dept. of Education.