I was recently contacted to investigate and Louisiana Department of Education story that sounded too absurd to be true. I was told John White had hired as many as 100 interns at 25 grand a pop for a few months of summer work. That comes to 2.5 million dollars in just straight up pay. If the department was responsible for, SSN, employment taxes and Medicaid this could easily be a 3.5 million dollar program.
can you look into something I just heard of… approximately 100 interns hired this summer by LDOE, 3 months of work for $25,000 pay. 25 thousand. many from California apparently. and John White didn’t have enough budget to keep me on his roll last year (I’m one of the 65-70 let go last May). Thanks
I did not want to bring this to the attention of the public until I had some more information, so I did a little digging. I came across this newsletter that came directly from John White and LDOE dated June 4th.
Welcome Summer Interns
We are happy to welcome interns within various divisions of the department. In order to allow for a smooth transition with us and in making their stay successful, we ask your assistance in making them feel welcome and in assisting them with procedures, policies, paperwork, and maneuvering around the department.
We will benefit from having extra staff on board who are here to assist us in our work while learning the difference in what we are doing for the children in our state.
This newsletter issued by LDOE and signed by John White clearly indicates that these interns exist, that there are many of them helping out in many departments across LDOE. Before I could report on this I felt I needed to find out the specifics: how many interns, who are they, what their salaries are, and who is paying for them.
Before anyone can get access to LDOE they would need to have paperwork set up for badges to be created to get past security. They would have to be entered in the HR and payroll system to get checks. The would need to have computers issues to them, e-mail address requested, and e-mails would have to go to specific departments to introduce these interns. I figured I could get some of this information from a simple Freedom of Information request. State and Federal agencies are required by law to turn over records and information (including e-mails) in their possession upon request. In Louisiana they have 72 hours to respond how they will answer the request. LDOE usually sends a response saying they will look for info and get back to you. I got this one:
With regards to the above-mentioned request as written, and within the ambit of La. R.S. 44:1 et seq. the Department will identify and locate any public records in its’ possession that are responsive to the above written requests. After any responsive items have been identified, the Department will segregate and set aside those public records and will make them available for your inspection. You will be contacted in order to make arrangements for this process. I can be reached at (225) 342-6985 should you have any questions regarding this matter.
I submitted my request on June 6thBelow is the text of my request.
Pursuant to the Public Records Act of Louisiana, R.S. 44:1 et seq., I respectfully request the following information:
- Please provide a count of interns hired in relation to this June 4th announcement in the LDOE newsletter from John White. (A copy of the text is enclosed for your reference.)
- Please provide the salary and compensation package provided to these “interns”
- Please provide a list/names of all interns.
- Please provide the posting(s) used to recruit interns.
- Please provide any contract related to acquiring/recruiting these interns with any organization
- Please provide the funding source used to pay for this internship program
- Please provide total cost of this internship program. ( If this was a grant, please provide info on the grantee and the grant application LDOE submitted. If this is internal funds please describe this as internal department funding. Please separate out costs to LDOE and from external sources, if this is a joint project )
- Please list the roles/functions of these interns.
- Please list all departments where interns were assigned and approximate numbers assigned per department.
- Please provide a list of all supervisors or Department staff responsible for managing this program and/or these interns.
- Please provide the duration of these intern assignments.
- Please provide the hours per week these interns are expected to work.
- Please provide the requirements interns were required to have to be employed.
- Please provide details on any other promises, benefits, housing allowances, or enticements used to recruit interns.
It took LDOE 20 days to get back to me that they had no records in their possession.
June 26, 2014
Jason France (Emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Department’s public affairs office has requested that I inform you that the Department is not in possession of any public records responsive to your June 16, 2014 request regarding interns.
It is actually impossible that LDOE did not have any records in their possession responsive to my request. They sent out a newsletter about these interns which at least would have qualified. LDOE is clearly violating the law, as they always do whenever it is convenient, or just because they think it’s funny. John White recently complained about Bobby Jindal violating the law by pulling the state out of PARCC.
Jindal “breached a constitutional line and broke the law in suspending assessments in Louisiana for reasons that defy the civil rights of our state’s citizens,” White told POLITICO in an interview on Wednesday.
John White is always violating the law. These interns are but the latest example of how John White has turned out state into a training ground for the national reform movement on Louisiana’s dime. Every year John White takes on “fellows” and assistant superintendents he recruits from the New Teacher Project, Teach for America, and other reform organizations. These employees rarely show up for work, have no assigned responsibilities (which is why you will never see an up to date phone list with any of these six figured salaried folks listed.) These specific interns are reportedly making 25 thousand dollars for 2 months of work. At this rate of pay they are being paid the equivalent of 150,000 per year per intern in just base salary, which is far more than just about any employee earns but John White. I’m guessing that these “interns” have not even finished college yet (I wouldn’t have to guess if they weren’t violating the law by refusing to release details), but they are earning 6 figure salary equivalents, and John White is refusing to acknowledge their existence or what their responsibilities are, just as he does for most of his entourage that recycles regularly throughout the department upper echelons.
Even more tragic and infuriating, John White is spending all this money at a time when teacher’s pay has been stagnant for 3 or more years, most public employees from this state (especially LDOE) have not received a pay raise in 4 or more years and many districts are facing bankruptcy as a direct result of his unfunded mandates and policies. John White did this at the same time he eliminated hundreds of full time employees from Louisiana that worked year round for what he is paying these interns to bounce around at LDOE for 2 months. John White’s absurd hypocrisy does not end there however. White was originally hired at 275,000 a year as state Superintendent. According to his 2013 ethics filing he is making 305,000 a year. Apparently John White gave himself a nice 11+% increase in his salary, roughly the equivalent of one of these fancy California interns’ pay, or close to the medium salary of a normal Department of Education employee. John White’s pay is also about three times the salary of Louisiana’s Governor.
Education Reform is very profitable business. I’m sure all of this is “for the children.”
I think it’s time John White was held personally financially responsible for all the fines he is forcing the state of Louisiana to incur for his refusal to obey State public disclosure laws. He can certainly afford it, and if it ever gets too pricy, he can always give himself another raise to make up the difference.
Are there any lawyers out there interested in helping me file a case for this blatant violation of RS 44:1 and a number of other ones that have been flaunted over the years? This post already contains the proof you need to be successful and I am expecting some other recent requests to be denied as well.
John White has apparently divorced the wife he left behind in New York, or he knowingly filed a false financial disclosure to the ethics commission. Until we can divorce him from our state, we need to hold him accountable for his actions.