A Comprehensive Audit of John White’s La. Ethics Admin. Filings
On October 15, 2015, I read all of the documents that Louisiana superintendent John White has on file with the Louisiana Ethics Administration since January 11, 2012 to date, using the Ethics Admin search engine.
In this post, I would like to share what I learned. Specifically, White has filed 60 documents with the Louisiana Ethics Administration since his arrival in Louisiana in 2011; four are annual “personal financial disclosure” reports for 2011-2014; four are amendments to the personal financial disclosure reports, and the remaining 52 are “affidavits regarding compensation for attending an educational or professional development seminar or conference by a public servant”– statements of his whereabouts in the name of “public service” and the cost to Louisiana taxpayers for reimbursing White for such travels.
In this post, I briefly examine each document and group like documents. Links to all 60 documents are included, as well. Think of this post as a digest/audit of John White’s mandated ethics filings.
Here we go.
Let’s start with White’s annual personal financial disclosures (2011-14), both original and amended.
Annual Personal Financial Disclosures
The first document, dated January 11, 2012, and filed March 06, 2012, is a personal financial disclosure for 2011. On it, White does not disclose his salary, but he does disclose that he and his wife have a residence in Brooklyn, New York, and they had an apartment in Baton Rouge. On February 21, 2014, the document was amended to include information about his wife’s employment (in New York); White’s move to a house in Baton Rouge; his salary at the Recovery School District (RSD) ($260,682.00); retention of the residence in Brooklyn, and details about his wife’s employment. The document was amended yet again, on July 17, 2014, only to change White’s RSD salary amount to $180,526.86.
White’s 2012 personal financial disclosure, filed May 13, 2013, does not include White’s annual salary, but it does note that White has taken on a second mortgage. As was true for his 2011 filing, White’s 2012 filing has two amended filings, on the same dates as his amended filings for the 2011 document (February 21, 2014, and July 17, 2014). The first amended document includes a job change for White’s wife (still in New York), and it includes White’s 2012 salary: $10,860.00 as RSD superintendent, and $296,801.27 as state superintendent. Still retaining that apartment in Brooklyn. In the second amended document, White alters the amount of his state superintendent salary to $283,324.00 (still $10,860.00 for RSD salary). Funny how White dropped his 2012 salary by $16,000 two years later. A mystery.
On February 21, 2014 (same date as two amended filings), White filed his 2013 personal financial disclosure. His annual salary is listed as $305,000; he no longer lists information on his spouse, but he retains the Brooklyn apartment as well as the Baton Rouge house (and the two mortgages). As he did for 2011 and 2012, White amended his 2013 filing on July 17, 2014. The only change involved his 2013 salary, to $275,000.16. Another retro-curiosity, that 2014 “loss” of $20,000 from 2013.
On May 13, 2015, White filed his 2014 personal financial disclosure, which also lists his annual salary as 275,000.16. That’s about it, except for changing companies for the second mortgage.
The remainder of White’s ethics filings involve reimbursement for his overwhelmingly corporate-reform travels.
Republican Governors Association
On June 27, 2012, White traveled to Scottsdale, AZ, to attend the Republican Governor’s Association Education Symposium for one day, June 25, 2012. This cost Louisiana taxpayers $103.25 for meals; $198.81 for lodging; $611.88 for transportation, and $66.43 for “misc.”
Georgia Grantmakers Alliance
On August 16, 2012, White traveled to Macon, Georgia, for the Georgia Grantmakers Alliance (GGA) Summit hosted by the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation. For his day in Georgia, White was reimbursed $114.00 for lodging, $575.00 for transportation, and $81.00 for “other.”
GGA featured this presentation by Louis J. Erste, Charter Schools Division Director, Georgia Department of Education.
10:45 – 12:00 noon Relinquishers and Reformers: A conversation about public education reform in Georgia
A recent op-ed in Education Week states: “The problem is immense. The solution must be big enough to match it. But there is good news. It is possible to challenge the status quo while honoring good teachers and defending public education. It is possible to encourage innovative, creative, and new solutions to tackle the challenges facing our public schools. And it is possible to provide all of our children with equal access to a free, quality public education, not just those lucky enough to live in an area with a great school….” – Eli Broad
Is it? How?
Panelists: Louis J. Erste, Charter Schools Division Director, Georgia Department of Education
Dr. Lynn M. Plunkett, Ed. D., Superintendent, Floyd County Schools & Member, Charter Advisory Committee, Georgia Board of Education
John White, State Superintendent of Education, Louisiana
Danny Shoy, Program Director, East Lake Foundation, moderator
On September 28, 2012, White traveled to Washington, DC, for the corporate-reform-focused America Achieves State Superintendent Meeting (filed October 10, 2012; $299.00 for lodging and $1,217.39 for transportation).
On October 10, 2012, another corporate reform nest: White was in Palm Beach for the Philanthropy Roundtable (filed October 18, 2012: $46.33 for a meal; $587.20 for lodging; $375.32 for transportation). On July 05 through 08, 2015, White was in Teton Village, Utah, for a Philanthropy Roundtable-sponsored “Breakthrough Philanthropy in K-12 Education” conference (filed August 20, 2015: $1,369.35 for lodging).
On October 22, 2012, White stayed in New Orleans for the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (INACOL) Virtual School Symposium (Filed October 25, 2012: $189.00 for lodging). White attended another virtual school summit, in Austin, Texas, on February 11, 2013, sponsored by Texas PBS (filed February 20, 2013: $243.49 for lodging; $639.10 for transportation; $53.28 for “misc”).
Next, on August 17, 2012, White filed for reimbursement of $119.00 for lodging in order to spend August 06, 2012, in Bentonville, Arkansas, meeting with the education privatizing Walton Foundation. White also met with the Walton Foundation in Philadelphia on June 20, 2014 (filed July 31, 2014: $316.00 for transportation).
The Waltons are pretty keen on Louisiana. They have poured $400,000 into Louisiana’s 2015 state board of education election in hopes to buy their under-regulated market version of school-on-the-cheap for other people’s children.
The Waltons were also instrumental in buying the 2011 BESE election to get White approved as state superintendent.
TNTP (and Some More Walton)
On August 07 and 08, 2014, White went to New York City to attend an “Education Reform Meeting” at TNTP (filed August 18, 2014: $778.47 for transportation). (TNTP is a Michelle Rhee, TFA spinoff organization, though the recent TNTP website has been scrubbed of the Rhee-leadership reference that was once there.) Less than a month later, on September 05, 2014, White was back at TNTP for a “meeting with Walton Family Foundation” (filed September 11, 2014: $14.00 for internet; $1,107.69 for transportation).
On August 21, 2012, White filed for reimbursement for an August 20, 2012, visit to Indianapolis for the pro-privatizing Friedman Foundation for Ed Choice in Suburban and Rural Areas conference ($319.32 for lodging; $766.13 for transportation). White attended another Friedman conference on September 15, 2013, in Charlotte, North Carolina (filed September 20, 2013: $910.00 for admission; $206.30 for lodging; $84.18 for transportation).
KIPP; NAPCS; Charter School Growth Fund
On August 27, 2012, he filed for reimbursement for an August 01, 2012, visit to the KIPP School Summit in Orlando ($439.00 for transportation). On September 30, 2014, White once again attended a KIPP-sponsored event, the expectedly-connected National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) Critical Friends Meeting in New York City (filed October 08, 2014: $170.00 for transportation; $26.50 for “other”). (Jeb Bush, Jr., sits on the NAPCS board.)
One of the NAPCS funders is the Robertson Foundation. On September 23, 2014, White attended a Robertson Foundation board meeting in New York City (filed October 08, 2014: $21.00 for “other”; $465.36). (Note that this was a week before the NAPCS Critical Friends Meeting. Also, two days later, on September 25, 2014, White attended a CCSSO Career Readiness Task Force meeting in DC and filed additional expenses totaling $945.70.)
In keeping with his charter school devotion, on October 10, 2013, White attended the Charter School Growth Fund Retreat in Seattle (filed October 18, 2013: $42.99 for “misc”; $205.15 for lodging; $537.96 for transportation).
Donnell-Kay Foundation “Hot Lunch” with EdFuel
On February 06 and 07, 2014, White traveled to Denver for a “Hot Lunch Speaker Series” hosted by the Donnell-Kay Foundation (filed February 12, 2014: $247.03 for lodging; $388.79 for transportation).
Donnell-Kay has a variety of speakers (and here) for its “Hot Lunch” series, including both education historian Diane Ravitch and TFA CEO Wendy Kopp, but it leans toward corporate reform (KIPP CEO Michael Feinberg, Rocketship CEO John Danner).
White went to hear Jimmy Henderson of EdFuel, whose presentation is described as follows:
Creating pipelines of talented leaders of all stripes is one of the most challenging issues facing the education sector today. Please join us for a conversation with Jimmy Henderson, EdFuel CEO, about the trends that are driving talent development today, models that show promise around the country, and what that means for education organizations in the Denver area.
If you were not able to attend the February 2015 Hot Lunch, we encourage you to view Jimmy’s PowerPoint presentation.
Based upon the PPT above, it seems that EdFuel is offering its services to “design winning talent pipelines.” Below is slide #39, the organizations associated with its “competency research team” (click to enlarge):
According to its 2013 990 tax form, Donnell-Kay’s grantees include Philanthropy Roundtable and a number of charter schools/charter school organizations.
National Institute for Excellence in Teaching
On March 13 and 14, 2015, he attended the National TAP Conference (Los Angeles) hosted by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) (filed March 24, 2015: $512.96 for lodging). NIET’s TAP system includes “performance-based compensation” for teachers, and though the NIET website is careful to conceal its funders, a search of nonprofit funders of NIET on citizenaudit.org includes notable corporate reform promoters, the Broad Foundation, Walton Foundation, Joyce Foundation, and the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund.
On March 11, 2015, White stayed in downtown New Orleans to meet with the Kauffman Foundation (filed March 24, 2015: $265.39 for lodging). Kauffman Foundation supports “new and expanding schools, as well as school turnaround issues” and even has its own charter school.
American Enterprise Institute
On October 29, 2012, he traveled to Houston for another privatizing reform event, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Education Summit (Filed November 05, 2012: $938.42 for transportation). (Read interviews with AEI “scholar Rick Hess and Common Core “architect” Jason Zimba here, and with John White here, on the McDonogh High renovation that did not happen. Also, in this video clip, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZHaZ6xQ6C0, Hess advocates for more lawyers to be involved in the educational reform movement, and he notes that there are lots of lawyers hailing from TFA available to moderate the reform.)
White also went to an AEI event in DC on October 01, 2013 (filed October 09, 2013: $250.76 for lodging; $1,387.30 for transportation).
On January 03, 2013, White was in New Haven, Connecticut, for a Yale Law School dinner (filed February 11, 2013: $444.40 for transportation; $17.00 for meals). (Get a load of the picture that Yale Daily News paints of White.) White was back in New Haven on Louisiana’s dime on April 05, 2013, for the Yale School of Management Education Leadership Conference (filed April 11, 2013: $10.00 for “misc”; $250.00 for lodging; $767.04 for transportation; $21.74 for meals).
“Not Waiting for Superman”
On July 14, 2014, he was in Vail, Colorado, for a conference, “Not Waiting for Superman: Reforming Education in America” (filed July 28, 2014: $174.93 for “misc”; $295.00 for lodging; $887.46 for transportation).
Council of Chief State School Officers
On March 19, 2013, back to DC, this time for a Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) legislative conference (filed March 27, 2013: $259.00 for lodging). On July 09, 2014, White traveled to Orlando for another CCSSO meeting, Career Readiness Task Force– plus a meeting of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change (filed July 28, 2014: $212.63 for lodging; $680.06 for transportation, then modified July 31, 2014 to change lodging total to $202.87). White also attended another CCSSO Career Readiness Task Force Meeting, on September 25, 2014 (filed October 08, 2014: $37.00 for “other”; $219.00 for lodging; $689.70 for transportation). Then, a trip to Dallas on July 10, 2015, is simply labeled, “CCSSO” (filed August 20, 2015: $908.20 for transportation).
Note that CCSSO is one of the license owners of the Common Core, and as part of that license, CCSSO states that it is not liable for outcomes associated with Common Core.
Jeb Bush’s FEE and Chiefs for Change
On November 20, 2014, White attended a conference for another Jeb-Bush-led organization, the Foundation for Educational Excellence (FEE) in Washington, DC (filed December 11, 2014: $38.50 for “other”; $285.00 for lodging; $432.15 for transportation). Then there was Bush’s February 03, 2015, Chiefs for Change Funder Meeting in San Francisco, which Louisiana taxpayers “funded’ by paying for White’s meals ($127.94), lodging ($219.84), transportation ($1,652.98), and “misc” ($48.95) (filed April 02, 2015).
One month later, in March 2015, White would be put in charge of Chiefs for Change, which needed funding because it would no longer be funded by another Bush nonprofit, FEE. And he would continue to use Louisiana taxpayer money to cover his expenses related to Chiefs for Change; on May 29 through 31, 2015, he stayed in DC in order to conduct “interviews for C4C executive director position.” For his travels, Louisiana paid $176.00 for meals; $924.03 for lodging; $1,082.49 for transportation, and $30.00 for “other” (filed June 05, 2015).
On August 21, 2015, Louisiana taxpayers dished out $141.75 for lodging, $549.76 for transportation, and $91.00 for “other” (filed September 03, 2015) so that White could travel to DC to meet with the lobbyists for Chiefs for Change, the Penn Hill Group, for lobbying related to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). (It requires little guessing to imagine what White had them lobby for based upon the organizations represented in this post.)
Note that in October 2011, Jeb Bush called on Chiefs for Change members to influence the Louisiana state board of ed (BESE) elections in order to have White approved as state superintendent. (Read about it here, and view the story of the 2011 BESE election purchase here.)
Friends of Bobby Jindal (?)
On May 06, 2013, White traveled to New York City to go to a conference at the Manhattan Institute, also sponsored by Friends of Bobby Jindal (that was before the break up). (Filed May 23, 2013: $51.00 for parking; $539.43 for transportation.)
On January 23 to 25, 2015, White was in Queenstown, Maryland, for an “Educational Weekend” hosted by the heavily Gates-funded Aspen Institute, whose CEO, Walter Isaacson, is chair emeritus for TFA (filed February 06, 2015: $354.00 for lodging).
National Center on Education and the Economy
On July 08, 2015, White traveled to Park City, Utah, for “NCEE” (likely the National Center on Education and the Economy NCEE), an event sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) (filed August 20, 2015: $211.41 for lodging). Before the NCEE event, White was already in Utah for a Philanthropy Roundtable event (noted above with its $1,369 lodging cost). After Utah, White headed to Dallas for a July 10, 2015, meeting of CCSSO (noted above with its $908.20 transportation cost).
The National Center on Education and the Economy was created in 1988 to analyze the implications of changes in the international economy for American education, formulate an agenda for American education based on that analysis and seek wherever possible to accomplish that agenda through policy change and development of the resources educators would need to carry it out. [Emphasis added.]
NCEE is likely best known for CEO Marc Tucker’s rather lengthy, November 11, 1992, “Dear Hillary” letter, in which Tucker offers the Clinton administration NCEE’s detailed suggestions on “education, training, and labor market policy.” An excerpt:
We think the great opportunity you have is to remold the entire American system for human resources development…. What is essential is that we create a seamless web of opportunities, to develop one’s skills that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone — young and old, poor and rich, worker and full-time student. It needs to be a system driven by client needs (not agency regulations or the needs of the organization providing the services), guided by clear standards that define the stages of the system for the people who progress through it, and regulated on the basis of outcomes that providers produce for their clients, not inputs into the system.
The entire document was read into the Congressional Record and is available here, in seven files, for those wishing to read it:
PARCC Governing Board
On September 25, 2013, White went to Washington, DC, for what appears to be his last PARCC Governing Board meeting (filed October 25, 2015: $260.33 for lodging; $776.30 for travel). Other PARCC Governing Board meetings that White attended: December 12 and 13, 2012, sponsored by Achieve, Inc. (filed January 03, 2013; cost to La taxpayers: $83.29 for meals; $209.54 for lodging; $1,086.60 for transportation); January 07, 2013 (filed January 14, 2013: $209.54 for lodging; $1,161.22 for transportation; $145.00 for “meals/misc”); June 26 and 27, 2013 (filed July 02, 2013: $54.73 for meals; $266.54 for lodging; $1,559.70 for transportation; $108.16 for “other”); March 31, 2014 (filed April 08, 2014: $2,424.00 for transportation; $58.00 for parking); June 06, 2014 (not filed until October 24, 2014: $318.00 for transportation; $27.00 for “other”), and September 12, 2014 (filed September 22, 2014: $46.50 for “misc”; $247.47 for lodging; $880.16 for transportation).
According to his ethics filings, White’s meetings with the PARCC governing board ceased in September 2014 though the PARCC website continued to list Louisiana as a PARCC governing state as late as March 09, 2015.
Note that according to the PARCC MOU, all governing states had to make the first down payment for Pearson-vended PARCC tests by July 30, 2014. Though Louisiana did not make that payment, the PARCC consortium took its time (at least nine months) to clarify that fact on its website.
Teach for America
It was only a matter of time before TFA would show up among White’s state-reimbursed travels. On July 18, 2012, White went to Chicago, IL, to attend a TFA board meeting (filed on August 31, 2012, for a travel reimbursement of $1,183.20 for transportation though the form was signed on July 30, 2012). Consider that one for a minute: White had been Louisiana state superintendent for six months, and he traveled to Chicago– where he was once TFA executive director— to attend a TFA board meeting.
A couple of weeks later, on July 26, 2012, he attended a “TFA Policy Discussion” at the corporate-reform-promoting CityBridge Foundation in DC (filed on August 31, 2012: $619.90 for transportation). On October 23, 2013, White was in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, for a TFA Connecticut Benefit Dinner (filed October 30, 2013: $58.00 for meals; $229.00 for lodging; $402.36 for transportation; $68.95 for “other”). In May 14 and 15, 2015, White had another TFA meeting in New York City (filed June 02, 2015: $655.66 for lodging; $595.07 for transportation; $52.00 for “other,” and another filing, on August 06, 2015, another $550.20 for transportation).
On John White’s watch, the Louisiana state board of education (BESE) voted to approve two TFA contracts, one for up to $430,000 that includes paying TNTP to help the TFA recruits (approved July 20, 2012), and one for $1.2 million (approved June 07, 2013), which includes the goal, “to actively market Recovery School District (RSD) employment opportunities to “Teach for America alumni who taught in New Orleans; alumni who taught in or near to Louisiana Geographies; and alumni who have family, collegiate, or other connections to Louisiana.”
Note that White’s two trips to meet with TFA, although “filed” on August 31, 2012, fall under the heading of “2014” affidavits. The two filings also fall in the order of 2014 filings– not 2012 filings.
If these 2014 TFA filings were not available in 2012, then the public could not know before that combined $1.6 million in Louisiana taxpayer money was handed over to TFA that it reimbursed White almost $1,200 to travel the previous summer to Chicago– where he once was a TFA executive director– to attend a TFA board meeting, nor could the public know that it reimbursed him over $600 for another TFA meeting the previous summer in DC.
Sure makes the Ethics Admin appear not so ethical.
That’s the last of it.
The Louisiana Ethics Admin filings of Louisiana superintendent John White,
charter industry TFA market-model vulture philanthropy, uh, public servant.