Tweet causes controversy

A comment by an attorney for a teacher’s union on the “failure” of public schools in New Orleans overseen by the state sparked criticism Monday from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office.

Brian F. Blackwell made the statement in a tweet sent Saturday.

He was rebutting state Superintendent of Education John White’s comparison of innovations in the New Orleans education system with the Silicon Valley, a reference to the northern California hotbed of high technology.

Blackwell’s tweet said education in New Orleans “is more a Katrina than a ‘Silicon Valley!’”

“When will you acknowledge the failure of the RSD?” he asked, which is the state-run Recovery School District.

Jindal’s office criticized the comment in a prepared statement Sunday.

Asked on Monday if the governor would discuss his concerns, his office issued a statement from Jindal that noted more than 1,000 people died during Hurricane Katrina. “The comments are outrageous and offensive,” the statement says.

Blackwell, who represents the Louisiana Association of Educators in its challenge of Louisiana’s expanded voucher law, said Monday he was surprised that his tweet would be considered newsworthy.

“The comments are what they are,” Blackwell said. “The RSD is a demonstrable failure and anybody that looks at the facts would know that.”

Ashley Davies, communications specialist for the Louisiana Association of Educators, said Monday her group would have no comment “as our attorney’s views do not reflect the view of the association.”

White and other RSD backers often cite academic gains in the schools that they say outpace students statewide.

The state Department of Education issued figures Monday that show 51 percent of RSD/New Orleans students performed at “basic” and above on state tests in 2012, up from 23 percent in 2007.

Statewide, 68 percent of students achieved the same marks last year.

Critics contend that, even with any improvements, many RSD student scores are woefully low.

Last year, Blackwell’s Baton Rouge law firm, on behalf of the Louisiana Association of Educators, threatened lawsuits against individual private and parochial schools that accepted voucher payments.

Vouchers are state dollars for some students to attend the schools instead of public schools rated C, D and F.

Voucher backers said the maneuver was a bid to intimidate school officials and disrupt the program.

The letter said any transfer of state dollars to the schools “would constitute an unconstitutional payment of public funds.”

The voucher measure was struck down last year by a 19th Judicial District Court judge in Baton Rouge.

A ruling by the state Supreme Court is pending.