Skip to content

Can BESE Save White from Jindal? I’m Thinking… No.

April 15, 2014

John White’s job is on the line, and the primarily-purchased Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) is standing behind its Common Core State Standards (CCSS)- and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)-promoting talking head.

For White’s annual evaluation, BESE gave him a 3 out of 4.

I’m thinking White’s BESE rating will not save him from the now-undeniable divide between White’s support for CCSS and PARCC and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s publicized change of position on the matter.

The April 15, 2014, nola.com article on White’s review notes that only BESE can fire White.

However, that does not mean that Jindal cannot get rid of White.

For starters, Louisiana lawmakers are considering legislation to make the state superintendency an elected position, not appointed by the governor and approved by BESE– and then shielded by BESE. If approved, election for the next superintendent would occur in 2015, effective 2016.

Second, in 2011, the BESE election was purchased in order to get White– who has less than five years of teaching experience– approved as state superintendent.  Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush assisted with this effort. Thus, if money could get White in, money can get him out.

Third– and this is the big one– Jindal does not play well with those who publicly oppose him. The most famous example of this is the 2009 firing of a state worker who publicly criticized Jindal, Melody Teague. From the Teague incident, in which both a husband and wife were fired within 18 months of one another, comes the term “being ‘teagued.'” As Louisiana Voice’s Tom Aswell notes:

The term (teagued) derives its name from Jindal’s propensity to fire employees, especially those who may have the temerity to question or challenge his decisions. It began early in his first administration when Tammie McDaniel, a member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, questioned certain budget decisions. Jindal immediately asked for her resignation. She refused at first but eventually resigned.

Then there was William Ankner who was forced out at the Department of Transportation and Development when it was revealed that a $60 million highway contract was awarded not to the low, but the high bidder.

Jim Champagne, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, in a moment of ill-advised level-headedness, disagreed publicly with Jindal’s plan to repeal the state’s motorcycle helmet law. Gone.

Ethics Administrator Richard Sherburne hit the bricks when Jindal gutted the Ethics Board’s adjudicatory authority and gave it to administrative law judges.

But the most high-profile firings, and the namesake of our new terminology, were the dismissals of Department of Social Services grant reviewer Melody Teague in October of 2009 and her husband, Office of Group Benefits (OGB) Director Tommy Teague, 18 months later.

Mrs. Teague testified against Jindal’s government streamlining plan that included calls for massive privatization. It took her six months but she got her job back.

Her husband was not so lucky. He was shown the door when he did not jump on board quickly enough to please the administration when it floated its idea of privatizing OGB.

Thus, the all-too-appropriate term Teagued. [Emphasis added.]

Add to Aswell’s list the 2012 firing of Martha Manuel:

Gov. Bobby Jindal fired the head of the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs, Martha Manuel, the day after she criticized his plan to merge the agency into the Department of Health and Hospitals.

Manuel told lawmakers Tuesday she’s afraid the governor’s plan will damage services for the state’s elderly. [Emphasis added.]

And let us not forget the abrupt 2012 resignations of Secretary of Revenue Cynthia Bridges and Board of Regents member Vic Stelly:

On Friday (June 15, 2012) , the Secretary of Revenue, Cynthia Bridges, one of the only people within the Bobby Jindal administration with real institutional knowledge of Louisiana government, abruptly resigned.

That resignation came one day after Governor Jindal reportedly discovered that her department had passed an emergency ruling allowing purchasers of new vehicles meeting certain alternative-fuel requirements to take a hefty state tax credits at the very time the state has been fretting over budget hemorrhaging. (Note: Bridges was just doing her job by expanding the list of vehicles qualifying for alternative tax credits.)

Also, on Friday (June 15, 2012), former lawmaker Vic Stelly, left the Board of Regents. His reason for the sudden resignation was because he did not want to watch the evisceration of higher education as has been the case in recent years. [Emphasis added.]

Now, in regards to John White, it is possible that Jindal has had a genuine change of heart and that he meant what he said on March 22, 2014:

White has been a strong supporter of the (Common Core) standards, but the governor indicated that he and the superintendent are not on the same page.

“I’m not trying to create division with John,” Jindal said in response to questions about a possible rift between them. “He’s an independent actor who works for BESE. I don’t always agree with what he does.”

He said BESE members and White “know where we stand on these issues,” and “during this debate we’re going to talk for ourselves.” He added, “I may not always agree with him on every issue, but that’s OK.” [Emphasis added.]

Perhaps Jindal has changed, and perhaps White really is “acting independently.”

Nevetheless…

…compare Jindal’s uncharacteristic, “John White thinks for himself” response to White’s October 2012 complaints about being “bounced around” in his trying to please Shreveport, LA Representative Alan Seabaugh, BESE President Chas Roemer, and– of course– Jindal– as regards the “fixing” of three “embarrassing VAM scores” for three teachers at a magnet elementary school in Seabaugh’s district. Again, Tom Aswell reports in regards to a recorded telephone conversation between Seabaugh and White:

White apparently attempted to accommodate the lawmaker (Seabaugh) [with fixing the three VAM scores] even as he complained to him in that telephone conversation that he felt like a “ping pong ball” being bounced between the governor’s office, Seabaugh and Chas Roemer, President of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. [Emphasis added.]

So, to recap: Jindal has an established history of removing workers (including those he is not directly able to fire) who do not publicly agree with him. Jindal is on opposite sides of White on the CCSS and PARCC issues, but Jindal says that’s okay because White makes his decisions independently.  However, White has admitted in a recorded phone conversation that even though Roemer is technically his “boss,” he still accommodates Jindal.

Of course he does. Or has. Until now.

If White thinks he can save himself by hiding behind Roemer, I think he is in for a rude awakening… good BESE grade notwithstanding.

Grades aren’t everything.

 

2 Comments
  1. Me thinks they (BESE) protesteth too much! It may take more than a “hint” by Jindal to sink into Chas Roemer’s head that this is more than political posturing by his Boss Jindal. Somebody please clue him in. Roemer virtually exploded during the BESE meeting yesterday when several members in his camp voted contrary to “plan.” In his own explosive words – “I can’t BELIEVE you voted this way!” It was uncharacteristic that he didn’t make his usual call for the dissolution of BESE and LDOE as is his habit.

    My money is on a rapid and unpleasant departure by White that may not even be veiled in the guise of a new job position that awaits his future destructive influence. Maybe he will just join his predecessor, Paul Pastorek, who rules White’s alter egotistical fraternity of Chiefs for Change.

    Regardless, I hope to be there to remind him not to let the door hit him in the ….. On his way out!

  2. GeauxTeacher, we both know this is political posturing–nothing more! Jindal controls 3 votes on BESE and he could easily garner 2–possibly 3 more votes on BESE to end PARCC/CC. This is a game! I don’t need a crystal ball to see how this one plays out! I will say the political posturing is not advantageous to our students and educational system. Plans are underway for the 2014-15 school year. Funds are currently being expended on technology, infrastructure, and CC resources/texts. Meanwhile, educators are leaving the profession. Quality teachers are essential to student success. But, of course, teachers will once again be vilified for leaving the profession. Afterall, someone has to be “scapegoats” for this “train-wreck” or keeping aligned to the implementation of reform initiatives..”flying the plane as we build it—–“plane crash!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: