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To La. Gov.-Elect John Bel Edwards: John White Needs to Go ASAP.

November 23, 2015

On November 23, 3015, former Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) data manager/analyst and fellow blogger, Jason France (AKA Crazy Crawfish), published a post entitled, “How John White Will Use His Own Failures to Sink Governor Elect John Bel Edwards (If he stays on).”

France’s post is worth a full read in its own right. However, in this post, I present excerpts, along with some commentary.

France opens his post with a listing of many of John White’s known deceptions and mismanagement. France includes the following:

  • inflated graduate rate
  • inflated matriculation rate
  • depressed dropout counts
  • flipped LEAP and EOC scores to show false improvement in the place of actual decline
  • sheltered RSD and charter schools in general from investigation
  • dissolved the state-level special ed department and forced LDOE employees to commit fraud on a routine basis by reporting that federal SPED money is being appropriately spent
  • illegally shared student data with third-party vendors
  • selectively shared data with researchers that support his agenda while withholding such data from independent researchers for years
  • cost the state thousands in litigation fees from select data sharing and systematic refusal to honor public records requests

There are more issues that I could add, including White’s now-infamous “muddying the narrative” associated with improper vetting of voucher schools as well as his efforts to not release Louisiana’s Class of 2014 ACT scores.

France argues that White needs to go, and soon. I agree.

He then offers information on White’s power base, both in Louisiana and nationally:

John White has quietly amassed an enormous power base in Louisiana.  He has legislators, superintendents, super PACs, LABI (Louisiana Association of Business and Industry run by a Grigsby figurehead), APEL  a pseudo teachers union run by a LABI/Grigsby promoted figurehead, The Times Picayune editorial board, The Advocate editorial board and management, Teach for America (who also has a BESE member, Kira Orange Jones that will support White unquestioningly), Stand for Children (run by a former White/LDOE staffer) ,CABL, BAEO (run by a former White/LDOE staffer), DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), and Lane Grigsby in his back pocket. …

White also has the ability to draw down millions of dollars from out of state ed reform minded billionaires to wage war on John Bel Edwards on his behalf.  Billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, Jim and Alice Walton, that spent millions defaming BESE candidates across the state (for unpaid positions) in the recent elections. …

France cautions Edwards to be careful, that these influential individuals and groups should be expected to work together to try and sabotage Edwards’ image and efforts to confront the secrecy and corruption surrounding John White and his LDOE. I agree that Edwards should not take such advice lightly and should expect White’s allies to smile and seem to go along even as they plan to undermine his efforts to restore transparency and order to public education in Louisiana.

France then offers his most important caution to Edwards– what France calls a “poisoned olive branch”:

The most diabolical aspect of this is; John White could simply agree to everything John Bel asks him to do, he could cooperate in every way, and he could even release the actual data starting from day one of John Bel’s term.  Unfortunately, this would prove disastrous.

John White has built an enormous and unfounded success data bubble.  If this pops only during John Bel’s term in office, and the scores are not properly recalculated for previous years, it will be an easy claim to make and support, that John Bel ruined education in Louisiana. [Italics added.]

Some commentary on the above quote:

To begin, Edwards is well aware that John White is a liar. Well aware. Moreover, it is highly unlikely that Edwards will somehow dismiss White’s deceptive, corporate-reform-laden history and agree to any proffered, conciliatory efforts from White. Consider this statement from Edwards, as noted in this June 29, 2015, Advocate article:

I have no intention of allowing John White, who isn’t qualified to be a middle school principal, to remain as superintendent when I am governor. …

We have so many highly qualified candidates right here in Louisiana that we don’t need to go looking in New York City for our next head of K-12 education.

And then this statement from Edwards, as noted on November 02, 2015, on La. politcal blog, Cenlamar:

I do not believe John White can stay as Superintendent of Education while I am Governor. And to the extent that I can control that, that will not happen. Because I do not find him to be honest and credible when he deals with the legislature and other members of the public in Louisiana.

I know, for example, from some of his dealings with me, and some of the things he has said about me.

We know he went into a Senate Education Committee meeting with the intended purpose of muddying the water as opposed to telling the truth. He did it to promote a bill that was patently unconstitutional, that he had to have known was unconstitutional: funding vouchers through the Minimum Foundation Program. That is a problem for me.

There are plenty of fine educators in Louisiana who actually meet the qualifications for that office. They are experienced educators with credentials in education, and why we would not put one of those people in that office I will never understand. Why we would go out of state to find somebody who lacks the minimum credentials necessary to qualify for the office is beyond me. That is not the approach that I think we should be taking.

Thus, I do not see Edwards as agreeing to any supposed, White about-face. For that to happen, as noted in France’s “diabolical” scenario, White would have to admit his shady dealings, and Edwards would have to trust a man that he has already publicly declared not “honest and credible” to suddenly be what Edwards knows full well White is not: honest and credible.

France closes his post with the suggestions regarding the qualifications of individuals Edwards should consider appointing to the three Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) seats under Edwards’ control, as well as to the Division of Administration (DOA):

Motivation for counter-attacking and applying pressure to John White should not be an issue for these folks (Edwards’ BESE appointees), as they already have lengthy track records in putting  students, teachers and parents before corporations and firsthand experience at how these shady folks work. I would also recommend putting someone like me in charge of education policy or LDOE’s IT department, which is now a division of DOA and not beholden to John White – thanks to Jindal’s statewide IT reorganization.

I wholeheartedly agree that Edwards’ BESE appointees should be seasoned in the workings of BESE and White– and BESE/LDOE under White. This is no time to appoint novices. My first thoughts go to Lottie Beebe, Mary Harris, and Lee Barrios, all of whom are well aware of how White works and how BESE operates. And I agree that France should be back in LDOE’s IT department. France knows LDOE. He knew it prior to White, and he has direct experience with the pressures White applies to honest, capable  individuals working in LDOE.

There will be a lot to clean up in LDOE once White is gone. Moreover, all data and reports issued from White-operated LDOE will need to be audited and likely reconstructed. France also suggests purging LDOE on White’s unclassified executive staff. Absolutely. Dislodging White from LDOE also requires extracting White’s numerous tentacles, which, as France notes, extends to RSD administration, as well.

In his interview with Cenlamar, Edwards had this to say about his three BESE appointments:

My BESE appointments will be people who are committed to the education of our children, and who understand that we are over testing our children and spending too much money testing our children.

We are driving school districts to teach to the test because of the way the accountability system currently works, and that is not in the best interest of our children.

I cannot emphasize enough that these three BESE appointees need to be well acquainted with White and his LDOE-issued deceptions.

As to Edwards’ accepting any “I really want to keep my job” olive branch from White:

Not going to happen.

joel klein job wanted Former NYC Chancellor and White’s Mentor, Joel Klein, and John White. Created by a supporter of traditional public education in response to a Tweet by Klein that it is “imperative that he (White) continue the work [in Louisiana].”

___________________________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, published on June 12, 2015.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

3 Comments
  1. LAEducator permalink

    The traditional public high school in my district was a solid C to C+ school according to Louisiana’s stringent accountability ratings from 1989 to 2011. A C rating then meant that it was a good solid public high school that wasn’t a magnet. My son graduated from this school. Since John White initiated his new “simple report card” this same school, like so many others, has been rated a B or A every year since 2012. I am confident that most veteran faculty there would argue along with me that the school is not turning out better prepared graduates now than when it was a C school.

    Small wonder that White has such success since a score of 100 to 150 = an A. Now, since only A or B is acceptable, White has simply manipulated data to show record success where he needs to. Consider that in the current year, the number of A rated high schools went from 10.7% to over 23% in one year. It’s just insane that virtually no one in the mainstream media ever questions the data when it is so obviously skewed. Thanks, Mercedes, for continuing to expose just how much of a mess White’s tenure at DOE has been.

    I guess it would be too much to hope that someone somewhere actually saved the 23 years of data on school growth that disappeared from the DOE website in March of 2012 when COMPASS took its place. I am afraid that the best we can hope for is to be able to start over from scratch.

    Whatever happens, at least we have John Bel Edwards – who has shown he has a true estimation of what White has been up to these 3 + years – & not David Vitter choosing BESE appointees. I second your suggestions of Beebe, Barrios, & Harris! JBE in the Governor’s Mansion is what I am most thankful for this Thanksgiving.

  2. Linda permalink

    DFER has a page titled “DFER List-Dollars for Ed Reform”. The lists, by state, identify DFER-supported candidates for city council, mayor, school board, state board of education, state house and senate, and US House and Senate. Villaithropists can hit “max out” for the candidates, providing the max money for their campaigns. La. has a lot of candidates on DFER’s list.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: Why Governor-Elect Edwards Will Boot John White Out | Diane Ravitch's blog

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