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Education Debate Provokes Nazi Reference in Louisiana

by guest blogger Andrew Ujifusa

They like parades in Louisiana, but a dust-up over education legislation in the state featured an allusion to goosestepping, and simultaneously recalled the collective bargaining fight in Wisconsin last year.

In an article by Bill Barrow in the Times-Picayune published March 20, House Minority Leader John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, accused GOP operatives of underhanded tactics in a fight over education legislation being championed by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. Edwards said that a Baton Rouge attorney, Bryan Jeansonne, has submitted a public records request seeking any correspondence between Edwards and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and its employees. The union is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. He said Jeansonne also asked at least one school board for the names and addresses of all its teachers.

Edwards has been a critic of Jindal's proposals, which include revamping teacher tenure and expanding the role of charter schools and vouchers in the state. Jeansonne, the article notes, is the law partner of Jason Doré, who happens to be the executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party. (Edwards, in turn, is married to a teacher who is a member of the teachers union.)

But it was actually another House Democrat, Sam Jones, who said the GOP's tactics were reminiscent of the "Brownshirts in the '30s," a reference to Nazi goons.

Republicans were quick to respond, with a Jindal spokesman saying the Nazi reference was "outrageous and offensive."

During last year's collective bargaining fight, Wisconsin Republicans created national headlines when they made an open records request seeking correspondence from University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor William Cronon's university email address that pertained to the state teachers union or its president, among others. The Wisconsin GOP said Cronon's criticism of Walker on collective bargaining could represent a misuse of resources by a public employee for political purposes, while Cronon said the state GOP was attempting to intimidate its critics.

Louisiana is one of the states I'll be featuring in an upcoming story on governor-driven education reform, so stay tuned for that piece.

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