I tried to speak to John White’s credibility, or lack thereof, at the BESE meeting, (now yesterday) as I write this. I presented handouts that call into question White’s honesty on numerous issues. I gave handouts about the various inBloom memos and correspondence to each BESE member as well as a little bit of bonus material I picked up today on a rumor I heard and thought to verify.
I was told that White and his executive “unclassified” staff are slated to get 6% raises this budget year coming up. I’m still waiting to see if any specific documentation is forthcoming on that (I’m sure it is being buried in the darkest hole he find after he burns the paperwork) However while looking for info on this I came across some other info that seems to call into question White’s credibility on numerous things he’s done recently, including legal documents he’s filed with Civil Service. To recap, John White laid off as many as 70 Louisiana Department of Education classified personnel because he claimed he did not have the money pay their salaries. He filed as many as 20 individualized layoff plans to do this citing financial reasons. John White also claimed after the Course Choice funding was ruled unconstitutional he was not going to be able fund course for thousands of students unless the legislature allocated him more funds from somewhere. Recently John White and his Department of Education made what seemed to me like a claim that LDOE folks were not going to get raises this year due to financial concerns. He even sent out this letter to his staff about the financial hardship his agency was facing:
From: John White
Sent: Friday, September 27, 2013 2:00 PM
To: _DOE-Entire DOE
Subject: Message from John
Dear Department of Education Team:
I want to first thank you for the work you have done in the first couple of months of the school year. Each division has taken on ambitious priorities that will benefit the children of our state, and I know that each of you is working tirelessly to ensure those priorities are achieved.
As you know, over the past two years, our department has faced budget cuts that have led to reductions in staff size. I would like to avoid, to the extent possible, any similar reductions in staff size this fiscal year.
At this time, state revenue projections continue to be modest. As such, the Department will be taking a set of measures to minimize the impact of any future budget cuts on staff size. First, the Department will be under a hiring freeze after Oct 7. Any currently vacant positions not posted by that date, or any positions that become vacant after that date, will require my approval in order to be filled.
Next, the Department will not provide performance adjustments this year. Given your efforts, and given the years since such an adjustment has been made, later this fall I will re-assess our budget position and will determine whether our agency will offer a one-time incentive award to our employees. Taking this approach gives me confidence that we are not over-spending in a way that would lead to layoffs, while at the same time allowing an opportunity to honor all that you have accomplished for our state.
Please look for word from me on this within the next three months. In the meantime, please accept my thanks for all that you are doing on behalf of the students of Louisiana. If you have any questions, please reach out to Jason Hannaman.
White also apparently gave information to the Advocate that may be technically correct, I’m pretty sure it leaves people with the wrong impression, namely that LDOE employees did not get raises, especially ones that kept their same job code.
Departments which have not come up with the dollars for pay raises include: the state Department of Health and Hospitals with 6,815 classified employees, the state corrections agency with 4,885 employees, the state Department of Education and a related entity, 721; Juvenile Justice, 853; the Department of Natural Resources, 354; the Department of Culture Recreation and Tourism, 636; and the Department of Economic Development, 65.
This is not true if you look at the period from 9/12 – 10/13. In fact some employees received as much as 25% raises, most were for unclassified folks, and the ranged from 9% -25%. I wonder if Bobby Jindal is ok with this? Someone should probably ask him if some people can give 25% raises if they feel like it even if they are laying off dozens of people at the same time claiming fiscal hardship. If I was a lawyer working for some of these laid off folks I would probably have a few questions for John White too.
You will also note that during this time John White hired around 30 or so employees with titles such as “fellow” or “consultant” at as much as 99999.90 (less than 100k to avoid legislative oversight and approval) annually. The total amounts in new unclassified positions came to over 1.1 million dollars annually. This was done during the same time period when John White was claiming he had to lay off scores of LDOE classified employees, and refused to pay for the Couse Choice program he himself pledged to find the funds support. Unclassified personnel can be fired at will. They should have been the first to go before scores of classified employees were laid off. Civil Service has to accept the statements of department heads are honest. In this case it appears to be very clear that John White was not honest. He was not honest about raises to select employees (Can he really claim he can make 25% raises for some but not even 1% for others?). He was not honest about being under financial hardship and needing to lay off scores of employees when he can hire dozens more with over a million in annual salary commitments. He was not honest about not having the money for Course Choice when he can still terminate all of these newly hired unclassified employees, or the dozens more and millions of dollars he spends beyond this list.
In case you were wondering. My favorite John White employee title is “Team Member.” I wonder what that looks like on a resume?
So John White told us yesterday Common Core is good. He claimed his powerpoint was filled with “facts.” He did not show us facts, just opinions. Here are some facts John White. Perhaps you can apply the Common Core principals you tout? Analyze this report. Write a summary. Explain what it means to various audiences (like your boss Bobby Jindal). Show me how zero raises means 25% raises using Common Core concepts I will understand. You might also want to explain to your staff tomorrow why you saw fit to lay off so many, stiff so many, and lie to so many of them.
I eagerly await your next e-mail.