Kira, Kira, on the wall

Kira Orange-Jones
Kira Orange-Jones

Not everyone can say they received a sizable campaign contribution from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg in an election to determine a seat on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Kira Orange Jones can.

Not everyone can head a major teachers group of overwhelmingly young, overwhelming White and overwhelmingly inexperienced individuals from around the United States, individuals whose college loans are forgiven while the educational futures of mostly African-American children are mortgaged away for the sake of profit.

Kira Orange Jones can.

Certainly not everyone can dance around state ethics laws while other African-American officials are called on the carpet or face possible criminal prosecution seemingly just because they’re Black.

Kira Orange Jones does.

Primarily because of the company she keeps, the policies she pushes and the people she hurt, Kira Orange Jones is able to skirt campaign finance laws and state ethics laws not only with impunity but institutional protections. She is apparently quite capable of doing so without the least sense of remorse or appreciation for proper behavior for a public official, mostly because the people who put her where she is are still collecting on their investment.
According to individuals who have closely followed the post-Katrina education scene in New Orleans, Kira Orange Jones has engaged in some of the most egregious, in-your-face, unethical behavior that harkens back to a time when Louisiana politicians treated their ethical lapses as badges of honor and rites of passage.

By law, public officials are required to file their financial disclosure statements by May 15 of each year. At the very latest, provided they receive an extension, they have until Nov. 15 of that year. In Orange Jones’ case, she had not filed financial disclosure statements for either 2012 or 2013. Failure to do so results in a $100-a-day fine.

What makes Orange Jones’ case so egregious is that she has on several occasions attempted to circumvent the law and the guidelines of the Louisiana Ethics Department. For example, when she was called on the carpet for her holding two jobs that were a blatant conflict of interest, BESE member and executive director of Teach for America, Orange Jones brought in an attorney named Scott Simmons, vice chairman of the board of ethics and associate general counsel for Tulane University.

Because of Tulane’s relationship with Teach for America through the Cowen Institute’s partnership (that’s Tulane University President Scott Cowen’s entity), Orange Jones’ dilemma becomes even more problematic for BESE and public education in Louisiana. Beyond the proverbial failure to communicate, Orange Jones and her legal representation failed to reveal all of their associations to the ethics board.

Orange Jones’ ethical dilemma was validated and verified by ethic’s board staff, which found that Orange Jones could not simultaneously hold both jobs of BESE member and head of Teach For America, the out-of-town, mega-million dollar conglomerate that has profited from the charter school movement and the cultural and pedagogical holocaust that is being inflicted on African-American school children. But Simmons managed to convince the entire ethics board to dismiss the staff’s finding.

Orange Jones may have been within her right to ask for an opinion, but she has clearly played semantic roulette, and undermined the integrity of the office, as well. The only time Orange Jones has filed was when she ran for the BESE seat in 2011. But Orange Jones was not without sin then either. She campaigned heavily on the notion that she voted for President Barack Obama in 2008, when in fact she had never voted in her life. It was revealed during the campaign that the first time she registered to vote was when she sought political office herself.

In her campaign for BESE, Orange Jones boasted about her leadership of TFA. This became her executive portfolio, masked as management gravitas and Ivy League superiority. She managed to get prominent African-American public officials to support her candidacy, despite the reporting and revelations of her ethical challenges. Moreover, her television commercials were overly exaggerated, if not downright fraudulent. Exacerbating all of this was Orange Jones’ successfully ducking Orleans Parish Sheriff Office attempts to serve her papers regarding those same individual sidesteps.

For their part, Simmons and Attorney James Babst have some explaining to do. Why didn’t Simmons reveal his affiliation with Tulane University and the Cowen Institute, especially considering his high-profile position with the ethics board? And why did Babst and Orange Jones downplay her TFA credentials by describing her as a “bit player” who was nothing more than a peon? Orange Jones’ entire 2011 campaign for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education was predicated on the notion that she was a different kind of African-American woman, someone not from here but someone who understood the nuances of Louisiana politics and education.

She clearly did not tell the truth.

Everyone except the school takeover elite and the local, mainstream news media (including the then seven-days-a-week daily) had grave concerns about Orange Jones’ eligibility and her ability to serve on BESE. Those doubts were the result of continued efforts to ascertain who this woman was, who was behind her candidacy and what impact her election would have.

We are finally beginning to find out.

Kira Orange needs to look in the mirror and realize she is not “the fairest of them all.” Kira Orange Jones needs to embrace the reality that the agency she heads, TFA, has had and continues to have a deleterious impact on African-American children.

Finally, even if other local media won’t say it, Kira Orange Jones may want to consider doing the right thing and step down from her BESE seat.

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