Last Modified: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 5:43 PM
Is Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy a Moses-like voice in the wilderness. Or is he a Don Quixote figure tilting at windmills?
The likely answer is yes on both counts.
But that hasn’t stopped his campaign to ferret out waste in the state’s budget.
Lately, he’s put his cross hairs on contracts let by the state Department of Education, noting that more than half of the $282 million in contracts go to contractors outside the state’s borders.
‘‘I’m all for reforming education,’’ Kennedy recently told The Monroe News Star. ‘‘Many of the governor’s ideas I like, but I think it is a mistake to demonize your teachers, and you do that every time you give a consulting contract to an out-of-state person or company other than to spend money in the classroom.’’
Case in point is contracts totaling nearly $133 million with two out-of-state companies that provide standardized tests for public school students.
Former Seventh District Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Dale Bayard noted the irony in the push to keep college graduates in state while at the same time more than half of the education contracts go to non-Louisiana companies.
State Education Superintendent John White answers by saying all the contracts are above board and awarded according to state bid law.
Kennedy hasn’t come to this fight lately. He has been stumping for a review of all the state’s 16,000 consulting contracts, a 10 percent cut in those contracts for a saving of $750 million and a renegotiation of the remaining contracts with a 5 percent cost cut for another estimated $337.5 million.
Those two items alone add up to nearly $1 billion, which would have been more than enough to avoid cuts to health care and higher education in this last session, not to mention raiding the state’s rainy day fund.
When Kennedy points to a $94,000 state contract with a California company to teach children how to play, he buttresses his argument.
Even more galling is his complaints that the state Education Department has not been forthcoming following his requests for information.
‘‘What information I’ve gotten, I’ve had to dig,’’ Kennedy said. ‘‘They stonewall until the cows come home. There’s not enough transparency and not enough disclosure.’’
Current BESE member Lottie Beebe, who won election last year without Gov. Bobby Jindal’s support, said the board routinely rubber stamps contracts with little or no questioning.
Kennedy has rubbed the governor’s office and state lawmakers the wrong way with his spats over state spending and his suggestions of fertile areas where cuts could be made in state government with little affect on state services.
He’s definitely in the minority when it comes to questioning how state tax money is spent.
Which raises this question: Just who are the employees in state government and our elected officials really working for?
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.