John White’s crumbling house of cards – From VAM to worse

John White’s crumbling house of cards – From VAM to worse

These days John White might be needing a hug. It appears all the ill-will and poor decisions making he has sown over the past year is coming home to roost on his doorstep, all at the same time.

Support the Louisiana Student Privacy Act

Recently we called out White for lying to everyone in the state of Louisiana over carelessly and needlessly exposing all of our school children to unnecessary risks by handing over their some of their most private data to companies hoping to make a profit off the information by direct marketing products to children, charging the state millions of dollars for the privilege of using their storage services, and by marketing and providing this information to unlimited third party vendors. I encourage the legislature to craft and pass the Louisiana Student Privacy Act, which will go further than FERPA (the Federal Student Privacy Act) and actually protect our children’s privacy instead of selling it out to anyone who asks.

Reject House Bill 650 – DOE reorg

White is trying to push through a bill that supporting the reorganization of the Louisiana Department of Education, about a year too late according to this DOE employee: (Link to testimony from April 11th)

Last week Beth Scioneaux indicated in House Education that the LDOE is going to lose another 34 positions. She didn’t say how many actual bodies were going to be lost but the numbers are getting pretty low with the exception of the TFA types. Erin Bendily lied through her teeth when she said that the department wasn’t working under the proposed reorg. White starting putting everything in place the moment he came in and had pretty much finished by early fall. He even had a draft of the org chart that he handed out to some staff around September early October. He also wants to make the Deputy Supt. position optional because his hand-picked second in command (Kunjan) couldn’t possibly be confirmed. He changed the title to Chief of Staff to get around it…

While Representative Chris Broadwater stated he has questions about how the reorg would work before he approves it (which already seems a little redundant since it doesn’t appear he cares what the answers are) well he might as well ask John White how the reorganization is already working out. White just needs rubber stamps, as BESE has learned. Unless you think White should be able to thumb his nose at the legislature and oversight, you should probably vote down House bill 650.

This information jives with everything I saw before I left. Erin actually sent an e-mail to us long before John White was confirmed, when he was still the Superintendent of RSD, instructing us not to make any decisions until Superintendent White was “officially” confirmed. I’m told he was making personnel decisions long before BESE voted to confirm him so it makes sense he would reorganize the department illegally and then ask for permission afterwards. White even drafts and then approves BESE agendas before BESE meets or reviews them.

Reject 2013 MFP

(don’t defund Special Education Programs, don’t use a DOE

known flawed VAM for funding calculations (SCR 23) )

John White has earned the ire of many advocates for Special Education Students of the disabled, gifted and talented varieties. Despite what he has claimed, this formula is not neutral, and actually reduces funding for some school districts even by DOE’s own reports they produced to try to dispute this fact based on the rosiest forecasts I’m sure they could come up with. The new MFP takes money away from talented programs, reduces gifted program funding, and reduces funding for disabled students who can’t exceed their value added scores by larger and larger amounts every year (which is statistically impossible).


Pass House Bill 160 – VAM delay and oversight

Because VAM or Value Added Modeling has been introduced into funding for school districts I would be remiss if I did not spend a little time explaining some of the flaws with this system that have come to my attention recently. If you don’t know what VAM is offhand, you are not alone. Even the Louisiana Department of Education, which uses VAM for everything from teacher evaluations, to school grades, to funding, to soybean substitute, has no idea how this system works according to this former employee.

Most of all, he [White] knows the Value Added Model, the all-important VAM, is broken. And he knows this because he broke it.

What was most interesting to read, however, was Johnny’s opposition to the ‘legislative oversight’ aspect to HB 160. He’s already allowing legislators (well, at least one northwestern one in particular) to dictate what the model does; why not let an entire committee or two have input? Is it because he knows that what he’s doing is wrong, if not illegal? Does he not want our elected BESE members to know that he bypassed them once again, by skipping policy and instead screwing with the math? Would he prefer that our esteemed, elected, representatives not be aware that he is playing around with citizens’ lives and careers because the governor tells him to ‘trust me, you gotta do this’? Perhaps he would not like the courts to know that he continues to flaunt the law by ignoring specific mandates that don’t suit him? He may be afraid that the public will learn that ‘Louisiana Make Believes’ data is being used to determine teachers’ futures, school takeovers and charters, voucher eligibility and the Course Choice crap, along with the future privatization of education. Or, maybe, it’s just that he’s concerned that everyone will finally discover that he’s nothing but White Lies.”

VAM was a flawed metric to use for all the things DOE tried to apply it to, but made more so by all the frenetic gyrations John White put the system through trying to please a select few. I strongly urge our legislators to reject the MFP formula put forth by BESE and ask that BESE restore the previous year’s formula that does not contain a tragically flawed VAM component. The folks that crafted the original VAM formula are gone, and John White almost exclusively hires TFA (Teach for America) folks that lack expertise in the areas he assigns them. Just this past week or so I learned that as many as 60 DOE personnel were given walking papers as part of a RIF, Reduction in Force plan. However I’ve also learned that John White already has new TFA recruits waiting in the wings to fill these spots he is “temporarily” eliminating – at much higher salaries and much fewer years of experience than much of the current staff he is releasing.

I’ve heard from several sources that John White is worried (freaked out) by some Freedom of Information requests that were made about VAM. Well there is a lot to be frightened of apparently:

It’s interesting to read that John White appears willing to hold off implementing Compass (that new teacher evaluation system) for one year…just about exactly one year after educators around the state begged him to do exactly that. He knows the entire program is, in a nutshell, a clusterf**k. He knows the two data systems involved may not work together; one of them is not even completed. He knows his district support office (the one that was just approved…months after being created…. and after the guy running it for five months left. provides little to no support, while ‘toolboxing’ around the state in rental cars, collecting mileage and per diems. He knows that schools have been given precious few resources and little guidance, and no definite answers. He knows the ‘new and improved’ LouisianaBelieves website leads teachers on an endless loop of 404-file not found error messages, dead links, outdated or “coming soon” information.

In case some of you were not keeping up, John White scrapped the former department of education website in favor of what has been called a childish, useless crayon inspired endeavor that contains nothing useful except pictures of John White handing out big checks to school districts with his sleeves rolled up. As impressive as that sight is to the John White fan club, most of us are not members, and what he has done offends us.

When I was at DOE we used to website as an archive of useful information and reports which we could direct internal staff, school district personnel, parents and other stakeholders to.  Now the site is universally understood to be a useless mess.  I suppose in a way that makes sense. John White has a god complex and he’s crafted the new department website in his own image.

John White doesn’t want people keeping track of what’s going on, so he scrapped the old site but “we in the know” are doing our level best to keep you informed. White can’t continue to lie to us, sell our children, humiliate our teachers, defund our Special Education students, dazzle us with VAM BS, and ignore both the legislature and BESE. . .  unless you let him. I and my brave colleagues have done their part, now it’s time for some of you to do yours.

No matter what John White names his website, Louisiana doesn’t have to believe anymore.  Reject John White and his bankrupt policies and send him packing.  We deserve better.  Our children deserve better than having to put up with this.

Bet You Didn’t Know it Will Be the Republicans That Come for Your Guns?

Bet You Didn’t Know it Will Be the Republicans That Come for Your Guns?

It won’t happen overnight of course, but in 10-15 years Republicans will be the ones pushing for gun controls, registrations, and confiscations of your guns – so enjoy them now while you can.

I expect them to be very successful in this drive.

You may think I’m crazy to think this way, but that’s my job here . . .  to observe social phenomenon and patterns and project out their natural evolutions.  Anyone can project the obvious ones, like the dissolution of the middle class, a rise in cyber-crime and cyber espionage, etc.    I don’t really expect you to believe me; this analysis is really just for my own amusement but if you are curious how I arrive at this conclusion, come along with me.

Let’s get to the first obvious point I mention in in the previous paragraph.  You may not believe me on this point, and that’s okay, but the data on this issue is pretty obvious and incontrovertible.  Our middle class is disappearing and it’s not coming back unless something radical happens.  The trend for the last 30-40 years has been greater and greater income inequality.  Our wealth is being siphoned off by multinational corporations with Cayman Island addresses, politically connected individuals that give themselves or their cronies’ sweetheart deals, and unpatriotic souls availing themselves of every available tax loophole or tax haven they can find (or pay to have created by Congress.)

This trend is about to rapidly accelerate.  The primary factor behind this is the oversized and unregulated influence of virtually unlimited money unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.  That decision opened the floodgates for Corporations and individuals to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections without disclosing their identities.  The Supreme Court made the argument that:

  •  Corporations are “people”
  • Money  equals speech
  • Congress does not have the right to limit speech of “people.”

I won’t bother to explain how this will impact elections and how elected officials will respond to this development.  Anyone with even half a brain (so that means most Republican’s too) can see the insane amounts of money being raised from relatively few individuals now.  Those individuals and corporations are buying access to our officials, and drafting legislation for them to introduce.  This legislation will favor the rights and finances of the few over the many.  These bills will favor policies that wring the wealth from our country for the coffers of any who covet it.  There will be no long term consideration paid to environmental factors, education issues, health issues, or sustainability.  Any freedoms you will be left with will be illusory; tokens to appease the majority while a small minority strips this country bare and enslaves its people for our corporatist overlords.  Many of these laws and freedoms will be designed to generate hate and drive wedges between various unincorporated and disenfranchised sections of our country.  Laws have and will continue to be sponsored and created that allow or ban gay marriage, limit or allow abortions and birth controls, restrict or encourage various religions over other ones.  These actions are how they keep everyone’s eye off the ball.  They stir up hate and antipathy with highly contentious bills, while more oblique ones get slipped in that deprive you of your rights, property, and future.

So how do I get to the guns part?

Eventually we will start to starve.  Our country will attain 3rd World status.  The pain, suffering and inequality will be too hard to hide.  The wealthy will build isolated enclaves to keep us out and keep the truth about their obscene amounts of wealth away from prying eyes, but their children, their princelings, will want to play with the world beneath their feet – the world where their sewage trickles down to – for us to try and live on.

Eventually even Fox News will lose its luster and as so many are left homeless, unemployed, and hopeless.  Wewill still have “guns and religion” though.  That is always a dangerous combination.  This is when the wealthy will come for the guns.  They will enact laws that limit the size and the quantity of your hardware.  They will limit your magazine sizes and lengthen your waiting periods and enact usage restrictions.  They will close your parks to hunting (those cost taxes to maintain so that will be easy) and they will eventually simply take your guns so you are powerless to oppose them.

I am personally in favor of much more gun controls than we have.  I would like to see them banned in many places they are now commonplace because I do think they cause many unnecessary deaths, increase crime, and overall encourage a darker, more barbaric and confrontational culture.  However, with what I see coming in the next few years, the guns and the gun owners may be our only hope to throw off the yokes of our corporatist oppressors.

However the Corporatists are already conditioning us.  They are sponsoring and creating unregulated “religious” schools through “voucher” and private “scholarship” programs from which they will turn our children into obedient fanatics in much the same way Yasser Arafat converted an entire generation of Palestinians into suicide bombs.  Their plan is to create a Christian based theocratic puppet government.  This government will encourage us to take on vows of austerity and poverty in the name of piety and pseudo-nationalism while our true masters rollick in their Olympianesque Edens.

So hold onto your guns while you can.  At least maybe that way you keep your illusion of being free a little longer.