Baton Rouge lawmaker wants state education department probe

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The State Capitol Building and gardens. Completed in March of 1932 in 14 months, the  Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The State Capitol Building and gardens. Completed in March of 1932 in 14 months, the "new" Louisiana State Capitol stands on a 27-acre tract surrounded by gardens, according to the website for the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.. It is the tallest state capitol in the United States at 450 feet high with 34 floors. Twenty-five hundred rail cars were needed to bring in the limestone used on the exterior and the interior marbles which came from distant places, including Vermont and Italy. The cost to complete the building was a modest $5 million.

State Rep. Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge, said he wants Inspector General Stephen Smith to investigate the state Department of Education, including allegations that the agency mishandled a possible award for Parkview Elementary School.

“The Louisiana Department of Education enjoys very little credibility in this state,” Williams said in his letter, which is dated March 24.

Last week Williams and state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, said they were puzzled that department officials delayed for three weeks nominating A-rated Parkview for the national Blue Ribbon of Excellence honor after nominating four other schools earlier.

Department officials said the delay happened because the agency was doing an audit of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system’s graduation records, which has triggered another controversy.

Smith noted that the audit involved high schools, not elementary schools.

In his letter, Williams also charged that there is “extensive manipulation” by the department of school performance scores in the Recovery School District, individual charter schools and district performance scores.

The lawmaker also said attention is needed on how the agency allocates federal funds to Recovery School District schools.

Barry Landry, a spokesman for the department, said in an email response to a question that the agency “has not spoken with or been contacted by the Inspector General’s office about this.”