Recently John White has been trying to stir up a lot of controversy about what he initially called a “cheating” scandal. Here is one of the earlier reports of what is turning out to be a completely made up EBR cheating scandal. He unloads quite a laundry list but to date has not been able to back it up and has scaled it back every time anyone asks about it. However the damage he made to public perception may already be done, which was probably his intent from the start. . .
Here is a brief synopsis of what happened and what I’ve heard cobbled together from several sources.
LDOE reported in the media that EBR was being investigated for a cheating related scandal. When asked about Chas Roemer said he was briefed and “very concerned” about what he had heard. (Who knows what that was since he never elaborated. ) When EBR and others started investigating and asking specific questions about this scandal, LDOE tried to change it to a massive graduation fixing scandal that was reported by an anonymous tipster. When this story was questioned LDOE admitted it involved one child who may or may not belong to an EBR school board member that may have been marked as a graduate while being 1 credit short. EBR claimed this was caught, LDOE has not released the text of the anonymous “tipster” to my knowledge (which they could do and redact the identity) if any such tipster actually existed. Now LDOE is frantically trying to search for any evidence of erroneous data to try and smear EBR with.
This is not a new technique. LDOE uses audits to try and intimidate and drum up negative material on districts they are targeting for takeovers. They have reportedly audited St Helena at least 7 different times in the last few years trying to get enough dirt to take over the rest of their school district. This may be in part due to a personal dispute between Jessica Tucker Bagian (former TFA recruit and current head of Accountability and LDOE) and Superintendent Dr. Kelli Joseph, who Bagian is reported to be holding a personal grudge against because she was once a teacher that reported to Dr. Joseph when Joseph was her principal.
Once LDOE targets your district for takeover, expect them to pull out the dirty tricks textbook and go through it play by play.
LDOE does not really care about data or cheating of allies and may even encourage it to bolster their case for more charters and reform policies. Many districts have been accidentally or intentionally masking dropouts for years by flagging them as entering adult education programs. . .from which they never receive a GED and never get marked as dropouts, thus dramatically improving the state’s dropout rate while not significantly improving their completer rate. I reported this error to them many times. I’ve had some honest districts reach out to me about this after I resigned and I helped them correct it.
LDOE doesn’t even care if some school districts don’t even report entire schools to them like in St James and Iberville. (They built brand new schools, Academies, which they send high achieving students to which have never been reported to LDOE and thus skew accountability for their entire parishes.) As long as the superintendents are subservient or completely compliant to their demands, they can get away with almost anything.
EBR superintendent Bernard Taylor and Superintendent White have long had a contentious relationship. In no small part due to the fact White and LDOE see EBR as a vulnerable and valuable next target for privatization of the public schools in the model of New Orleans. We even have a New Schools for Baton Rouge program lead by a former LDOE staffer selecting charter schools for most of North Baton Rouge. The reason for this timing is because of South Baton Rouge though. With the new legislative session starting in a month or so, White is/was trying to drum up reasons to implicate EBR in some sort of scandal damage the perception of EBR in the news and minds of EBR citizens so they and the legislature would be more inclined to vote to divide Baton Rouge into two cities, St George and Baton Rouge. This would allow St George to form their own wealthier whiter district in the south, taking 2 thirds of the sales tax revenue dedicated to all EBR public schools in the process. This would simultaneously bankrupt the EBR system by saddling them all the retirement costs and paying of the bonds for the schools in the South they no longer owned, while also dramatically lowering their SPS scores making it possible for the State to take over all of East Baton Rouge’s remaining schools. After just getting hit with a 1.5 billion dollar judgment for how they handled kicking out veteran teachers in New Orleans, you can be sure all the teachers will be put on a RIF (Reduction in Force) list and simply never called back to create a lot of unemployed teachers in both the new city of St George (many of which work in the incorporated zone and all of which won’t be employable in a new St George school system.
However the strangest twist I have heard is that all of this scheming was done at the behest of Jindal staffers and some legislators which may even include Senator Bodi White, who sponsored the successful drives to create Central, Zachary and Baker school systems and is the driving force behind the creation of new School District and now a new city in south Baton Rouge in the form of the proposed city of St George.
My what a tangled web we weave, Louisiana.
If anyone finds the smoking gun about intentional lying and collusion Jindal may have his own Chris Christie Bridge Scandal to explain before his presidential run.
Based on these comments on a Nola.com article about this “scandal” White’s tactics appear to be working.