Those who follow k-12 education in Louisiana closely know about state supt. John White and his illusionist tricks. There have been several times over the last few years I expected John to hightail it out of here, only to see him double down on his egregious and dishonest behavior and come out stronger than before each crisis. Amazing and mystifying, but he is a true magician.
In the last BESE (BESE is the State School Board responsible for hiring and firing the state superintendent) election John White’s out-of-state billionaire supporters (led by education crime syndicate boss and chairman of LABI, Lane Grigsby) poured millions into the race to save his lying ass from getting canned for all the atrocious, dishonest, and antagonistic behavior he’s exhibited over his entire tenure as State Sup and local Sup of the New Orleans Recovery School District.
White even received some national notoriety (and praise) for “standing up” to Governor Bobby Jindal over the issue of Common Core State Standards. While this dispute may have been staged for the benefit of Jindal’s National presidential ambitions from the outside it looked like Jindal was really giving White a hard time.
(Fighting something controversial is a good way to stay in the media – see Donald Trump’s entire campaign – but actually resolving issues has a way of removing that spotlight so I don’t believe Jindal actually wanted to resolve the Common Core issue.)
Jindal is now leaving office in disgrace, unable to become more than a sad footnote in this presidential race, unable to extricate the state from Common Core, leaving a mortgaged state in shambles with a budget held together by rusty screws and tattered, generic Scotch tape, and a gaping multi-billion dollar deficit for years to come for governor elect John Bel Edwards.
Whatever the truth, Jindal looks like Tweedle-dum, and White looks like the Cheshire cat that ate that rat. John White has the effect on people.
John White’s fortunes may be looking up. Grigsby and his corporate education cabal managed to snare 7 of 8 elected BESE seats through lies, trickery, false promises and outrageous SuperPAC spending. 4 very vocal critics of White will be gone from BESE by the January meeting and he will have 7 solidly purchased allies in his pocket (and in the pocket of the charter industry who purchased their seats.)
John White was obviously feeling his oats at the December 1st BESE meeting where he routinely interrupted and spoke rudely and condescendingly to the outgoing members and only provided materials to members to review on the day of the meeting, prompting at least one citizen to publicly chastise the board for their lack of decorum and preparation. White was even rude and combative to citizens providing testimony at the meeting.
(As usual, every one of John White’s recommendations was rubber-stamped by his accomplices on the board.)
Not exactly the actions of someone who feels they may be at the end of their rope.
Governor elect Edwards will appoint 3 members, and the 8th elected official, Kathy Edmonston, is an ally of mine, an NPE endorsed candidate, and a staunch opponent of all things John White, and John White himself.
(As an interesting note, I learned John White and outgoing BESE district 6 representative Chas Roemer audaciously tried to butter Edmonston up right after the election, but she was having none of that foolishness. After their allies manipulated video of Kathy to accuse her of being an idiot who wants an illiterate America I predict it’s unlikely she will be coming around to their side anytime soon.)
As Dr. Mercedes Schneider discovered and covered in her blog, John White’s contract ends with the new terms of BESE and the Governor. It also requires 8 votes to approve a contract. Governor elect John Bel Edwards has consistently insisted he wants John White gone, and will do anything in his power to see that happen.
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.
(From where I stand there is no way John White can reach the 8 vote threshold on an 11 member board. Other LDOE personnel under contract immediately cease to work there when their contract expires. I would have expected the same to happen here although it sounds like White will remain as a month to month employee under the terms of his original contract per Dr. Schneider’s blog.)
Moreover I have been assured by another longtime source that not all of Grigsby/LABI’s backed 7 approve of John White and will vote to keep him. If that is true White is sitting at 6 or fewer votes of the required 8 he needs to keep his job.
(I have discussed working with the new administration to target those staffers loyal John White’s lies and not to Louisiana’s children with members of John Bel’s campaign prior to the election. I hope they end up in a position to take me up on that offer.)
However another longtime source has revealed John White is claiming to his staff that he has the required 8 votes he needs.
OH- JW has told some staffers that he has 8 votes (that would mean Edmiston is in his pocket) AND – he will remain as superintendent.This may simply be another of John White’s lies meant to keep his staff from staging a mass exodus.
I disagree that White has Edmonston in his pocket, however White is a wiley bastard and his allies have deep pockets and no fear of employing lies or deceit to get what they want. Another possibility is that Edwards has offered BESE positions already to some folks who are planning on betraying him and his wishes on keeping John White.
I have not been contacted by the transitional Edwards administration despite offering my services on multiple occasions, although some 53 others have been contacted and appointed to a k-12 advisory committee. One of the members of this advisory committee is a former BESE member, a well connected and wealthy New Orleans Democrat, claims to be the RSD architect, and is a staunch John White supporter named Leslie Jacobs.
This is a concern for me and I would hope her role remains limited as she is a proponent of everything John Bel has claimed he is against.
Obviously this is making me a little nervous as the time approaches for Edwards to take office and make his appointments. I chose to back Edwards in the last election in large part for his history and stances on education issues and don’t wish to have to turn that support to withering scrutiny so early in his term, but I haven’t fought this long just to see a new administration support the same bad people and terrible ideas.
I have a much longer history keeping an eye on White than just about anyone in this state and I know he’s slicker than WD40 smeared on an icy lake. The Edwards administration doesn’t have to contact me of course. (Who am I to them after all?) However I don’t see many of my allies on his list of 53 nor have many of my allies who have exposed White’s corruption been contacted. I’m not looking for a pat on the back, but to make sure they are equipped with enough info to pry White out of his dank DOE hole. They don’t have to contact me, but they damn well better be successful in getting rid of him if they don’t.
I would like to offer a word of caution to Edwards’ transition team since they appear disinclined to contact me at this time. White is covering for a lot of demons and hiding a lot of skeletons at LDOE. Don’t expect his allies to give him up without a fight or for him to go quietly. Don’t squander this opportunity for real change and transparency. If you let him stay he will stab you in the ass, just like he did to Jindal, and he’ll enjoy it immensely. K-12 education may not be your top priority compared to the budget crisis and planned Medicare expansion, but it may be your downfall if you’re not careful.
White always seems to have just the right rabbit to pull out of his hat at just the right moment.
Fortunately I still a few tricks left up my sleeves as well. . .