At a time of deep budget cuts, it is time to cut the Recovery School District (RSD)

Latest John White lie

Bobby Jindal recently released his budget for the 2015 fiscal year.  This budget has some pretty steep cuts for the Louisiana Department of Education.

State Superintendent John White recently claimed Bobby Jindal’s 2015 budget would force him to lay off as many as 100 of his 300 workers.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed budget would force layoffs of about 100 of the state Department of Education’s roughly 300 workers, state Superintendent of Education John White said Monday morning.

White said he was originally told that the governor’s budget plan could result in 45 agency employees losing their jobs.

Of course this a statement from a John White, a well documented liar, and an article from Will Sentell, who is rumored to be White’s pal outside of working hours, so it doesn’t surprise me that these figures are dishonest and not fact checked – not even a little.

Fortunately I had recently asked for the lists of LDOE and Recovery School District (RSD) employees. RSD is a branch of LDOE and directly overseen by LDOE. The true number of employees I came up with was 447 “DOE State Activities” employees, 117 Special School District Employees, and 108 RSD employees. That comes to 675 employees scattered across several divisions that report to John White, or more than twice the number White quoted to the Advocate – and Will Sentell dutifully reported.

From payroll file 1/23/2015


But what is one more lie?

LDOE employees with multiple offices

RSD no longer directly manages any schools, it just recruits them and “oversees” them. (New Schools for New Orleans is a non-profit that already does that.)  RSD’s employees are actually extensions of the LDOE. Many LDOE employees live in New Orleans and have offices in Baton Rouge and luxury offices in New Orleans. Many of LDOE’s executive employees live in New Orleans and do all their work from the RSD offices across from the Superdome, or from the privacy of their homes – as their exorbitant conference call bills will attest to.

Sources have relayed that a non-exhaustive list of employees operating this way are:

  • · Katherine Westerhold
  • · Hannah Dietsch
  • · Alicja Witkowski
  • · Taina Knox
  • · Rebecca Kockler
  • · Kunjan Narechania

The truth behind LDOE state employee RIF’s (Reductions In Force)

Everyone knows that John White and Bobby Jindal have claimed they have cut back employees in state service, so I decided to verify that claim myself. I asked Civil Service for the payroll of LDOE as of 1/1/2012 and 1/31/2015. A direct comparison would lead one to believe that John White had reduced his employees. John White filed dozens of RIFs, or Reeducations In Force, during his tenure.  However what you can’t tell from these files is that John White simply reclassified all of his IT positions as belonging to DOA instead of LDOE. Many of these folks still work at the Claiborne building where LDOE is housed in their same roles, they just are paid from the DOA budget although they still work for John White and LDOE on LDOE systems.

I asked for listing of these employees, but Civil Service has no way of identifying them. Therefore I excluded all the people from the IT area from my 12/31/2011 file so we could have an apples to apples comparison.  These are the numbers I came up with as of 12/31/2011 excluding IT.


However this was when RSD actually staffed schools with teachers!  Now almost all the RSD employees are unclassified operatives of John White.  Many freely move back and forth between these agencies at will as I will show you later.

What this means is employees John White controls for day to day operations is down to 675 from around 697 – excluding IT and RSD employees.  RSD actually had to run schools three years ago and most of those employees were teachers. Now RSD skims money from grants these schools receive and skims MFP funds to support their lavish lifestyle  – as I will also get into later.

Next I wanted to find out what types of employees are left and how the workforce changed. Instead of support personnel for things like Special Education, most of LDOE was turned into a charter school recruiting office and assessment section. At first blush it would appear the number of unclassified positions decreased, however when you add in RSD unclassified positions you can see a dramatic increase in this type of unrestricted worker.  Below are some distinctions between classified and unclassified employees.  Please refer to this definition from Civil Service.  I have summarized some of the differences below:

Unclassified state employees have no restrictions on salary or raises, can lobby legislators and donate to candidates, do not have need to have any specific qualifications, and are generally supposed to be restricted to just the heads of departments.

Classified state employees cannot engage in any political activity, or even the appearance of political activity. They cannot donate or endorse candidates and cannot even discuss these topics publicly without suffering sanctions or being fired. Raises for classified workers are tightly controlled and limited. Classified positions have specific sets of duties, education requirements, and experience requirements they must meet to qualify for positions.  Classified workers cannot be promoted if they do not meet the requirements of their new position. The vast majority of state workers used to be considered “classified.”

Below are the basic positions defined in Civil Service that are supposed to be classified as unclassified.

  1. Elected officials and person appointed to fill vacancies in elective offices.
  2. The head of each principal executive department appointed by the Governor.
  3. Registrars of voters.
  4. Members of State boards, authorities, and commissions.
  5. One private Secretary to the president of each college or university.
  6. One person holding a confidential position and one principal assistant or deputy to any officer, board, commission or authority mentioned in (1), (2), (3), or (4), above, except the State Department of Civil Service.
  7. Members of the military or naval forces; including those employees in the Military Department of the State of Louisiana who are members of the Louisiana National Guard or Louisiana State Guard, either active or retired.
  8. The teaching and professional staffs, and administrative officers of schools, colleges, and universities of the State, and bona fide students of those institutions employed by any State agency.
  9. Employees, deputies, and officers of the legislature and of the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General; and of police juries, school boards, and assessors; and of all offices provided for in Constitutional Article V.
  10. Commissioners of elections, watchers, and custodians and deputy custodians of voting machines.
  11. Railroad employees whose working conditions and retirement benefits are regulated by federal agencies in accordance with federal law.
  12. Notaries Public.
  13. All employees of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Obviously unclassified employees are supposed to be restricted in number and held to a pretty high standard.  Unclassified positions are supposed to be rare.  The vast majority of state employees in Civil Service are supposed to be “classified” to prevent a return to the “spoils” system of governance in Louisiana; when most of the positions in state government we doled out based on who folks supported in elections.  A classified state worker is loyal to the state, not a specific political party, candidate, or appointee.  From information I’ve been given, John White reportedly did not like that arrangement and exploited Civil Service rules to simply drive off hundreds of classified state workers loyal to Louisiana and replace them with unclassified employees (mostly from out of state) loyal to him.

Of 108 positions at RSD today, 107 are unclassified.

What possible harm can come from converting our workforce from classified to unclassified?  (Hint: New taxes!)

In case you were wondering how this arrangement works out in the real world consider this.  RSD and its staff, in conjunction with the charter lobby, successfully PR’d the public in New Orleans last year to pass a tax that contributes 90% of the proceeds to RSD until 2025 (in additional to their state and federal funding and fees they charge charters.)

Shall the Orleans Parish School board (the “School Board”) levy a tax of four and ninety-seven hundredths mills on the dollar of the assessed valuation of property within the City of New Orleans assessed for City Taxation, (an estimated $15,540,000 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year), for a period of ten (10) years, beginning in 2015, for the purpose of preservation, improvement and capital repairs of all existing public school facilities, to be levied and collected in the same manner as is set forth in Article VIII, Section 13(C)(Second) of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974; provided that said tax is to be levied each calendar year at a millage rate not in excess of the difference between 4.97 mills and any millage levied in such calendar year for any outstanding general obligation bonds of the School Board?”

How will property taxes be extended and/or redirected to fund RSD?
OPSB is expected to pay off school facility debt by 2021 using 4.97 mills of property tax previously approved by voters. The tax is expected to end in 2021, and the amount collected from voters will begin to decrease as the debt service decreases. If voters approve the proposition, the mills will be renewed and extended through 2025. The difference that is not applied to the debt service will be set aside for facility preservation, and RSD can begin to access the funds as early as 2016. The mills currently collect approximately $15.5 million each year. (Source: OPSB FAQ on Tax Proposition. )

In full effect and after OPSB has fulfilled its debt obligations, the non-elected RSD would receive 90% of the funding ($13,986,000) of property tax revenue. OPSB would receive the remaining portion of approximately $1,554,000.

What does RSD do with all their money?

What does RSD do with all its money you ask?  Well for one thing, they like to rent luxury office space in downtown New Orleans across from the Superdome.

RSD takes up the entire 14th floor at 1615 Poydras street. Here is the floor plan of the suite right above them


Here are some of the images of the building and the amenities:

Encompassing 508,741 rentable square feet, the Class A Property is 85% leased and serves as the corporate headquarters for McMoRan Oil & Gas.


The property’s rent rolls are dominated by high profile, local, national and international corporations including Freeport-McMoRan, ANKOR Energy, U.S. Coast Guard, Gillis Ellis & Baker, Kuchler Polk Schell Weiner & Richeson, Usry Weeks & Matthews, Duplantier Hrapmann Hogan & Maher, First NBC Bank and Regus.


1615 Poydras accommodates an on-site restaurant, a barbershop and dry cleaning pick-up & delivery services.  Our location in the Central Business District (CBD) directly across from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, provides easy access to City Hall, hotels, Canal Street shopping and the historic French Quarter.  Tenants enjoy easy walking distance to the NFL Saints Champion Square and the world-class Mercedes-Benz Superdome directly across the street.


Man, who wouldn’t want a drycleaners with pickup and delivery service and a barbershop in their office building?

Check out the gorgeous marble and mahogany floors and enormous meeting rooms overlooking the city.

Who knew being a state worker could be such a sweet deal, especially amidst a 1.6 billion dollar deficit?

But maybe there was a logistical reason for locating so close to the superdome in a luxury office building?

RSD claims this move makes them more accessible to families and parents.

Recovery School District

The Recovery School District is a special district of the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) charged with transforming chronically underperforming schools in Louisiana. The organization’s mission is to ensure that all students graduate high school on-time and be college and career ready.  Their move to 1615 Poydras provides a more centrally-located site in the Central Business District – closer to business and community partners [true] and more accessible for families and parents [not true].  Recovery School District also maintains three Parent Centers at various locations throughout the city.

But let’s be honest. This is move to put them closer to the Saints, not students. Right across the street in fact!  RSD used to be located in a warehouse before John White came to town, where many of the parents actually lived.

Let’s compare.

RSD Pre-John White at 1641 Poland Avenue.  Note the graffiti on neighboring buildings and less than august surroundings. . . but I bet the rent wasn’t too steep.


RSD – Post John White at 1616 Poydras street on the 14th floor across from the Mercedes Superdome.  Who knew School Reforming could be so good?


So what if RSD is ripping us off. . . at least I get choices!?!?

Now when parents have problems they can’t actually reach anyone at RSD. RSD makes thousands of parents with enrollment problems line up all day in the hot sun every year while they try to fix the choices the One AP enrollment system selected for them.


Last year some parents waited in line all day only to be turned away and told to come back tomorrow.


RSD Choice. We choose for you.

In my district, East Baton Rouge Parish, I actually have choices and can apply to numerous schools and programs.  I can choose to send my kids from among the schools I get into. In public schools I have the choice to send my kids to a Montessori program, magnet school, language immersion school, Arts integrated or Math Sciences and Arts school, a trade focused school, a charter school or just send my kids to the school down the street. I can apply to all of those choices and select the one I want based on the ones I can get approved for. In New Orleans you put your top 3 choices in, and maybe the computer selects one for you. If you don’t like the selection, or the selection scatters your kids all across town, you and thousands of other parents must queue in line all day to try and find a new school for your kids to attend.

That type of “choice” is more like Communism, than Capitalism folks. You know, where the state assigns you to a school and you line up for days to make simple changes to anything (and that’s on a good day.)

The free enterprise system charter supporters often tout as the cure-all for the ails of the public education system can’t work because bad or undesirable charters can stay in business when the few desirable schools run out of spots.

RSD and New Schools for New Orleans claim that RSD and the New Orleans Experiment has solved the problem of kids being limited by their Zip code. In actuality, they have just made it worse.

These groups claim to provide choice, but the choice belongs to RSD, to the state, not to the parents.

This is the future that awaits us as this “public/private” partnership proceeds.

Wow. Can RSD do anything right?  Uh. . .

But that’s not the only form of waste at RSD.

RSD’s 100+ strong workforce loses more property and equipment each year than the rest of the state put together.  About a million dollars a year at last tally. Here is a statement from the legislative auditor:

Statement: The Recovery School District reported more than 28 percent of its movable property missing in its 2014 inventory. Because of the large volume of missing inventory, [the Louisiana Property Assistance Agency] disapproved the agency’s property certification and completed an internal investigation on the losses. We have since reported our findings on the issue to the Attorney General and Legislative Auditor for further review

The full report is here:$FILE/RSD%202014%20Release.pdf

You can also see how RSD’s losses compare to the rest of the state in Lee Zurik’s report:

RSD and LDOE employees switch jobs fluidly because they are really the same agency now.

To see this in action let’s look at the curious case of Kunjan Narechania, who came to Louisiana and RSD with John White as his chief of staff. Then she went with John White to LDOE, and now is back at RSD but is paid from LDOE’s budget.

From payroll file as of 1/23/15


From article as of 2/2/15.

Recovery chief of staff Kunjan Narechania said the department has held off on finalizing the Dunbar agreement pending the John Mac and Livingston decisions; if Believe moves into John Mac, it would be moot. She added that the Recovery system does not typically have written agreements with charter programs about which buildings they will get, though “the process has been fairly inconsistent.”

Gotta’ love that freedom.

As you can see, RSD and LDOE employees are fluid and all report to John White.  They certainly don’t oversee any schools, and I sure hope they aren’t trying very hard to look after property that is disappearing at a burn rate of a million dollars per year.  So do we really need them to recruit charter schools in a 100% charter district?

Is RSD the future we want for Louisiana: a giant, unaccountable, exceptionally wasteful, state level agency who’s employees can lobby and donate to local and state officials for increases to its budget and power and which oversees all the schools in the state – instead of local school boards?

Is there a conclusion in here somewhere?

It is clear that RSD is not working. . . for parents or students. At a time of great financial crisis in our state, RSD is providing multiple luxury offices to its staff members so they don’t have the inconvenience of driving into Baton Rouge – where they really are supposed to work.

Louisiana is facing a 1.6 billion dollar shortfall this year, while some state DOE employees are assigned multiple offices (luxury offices).  Based on my calculations, Bobby Jindal is probably right to recommend 100 employees be reduced at the department of education. John White has actually maintained his staffing level at LDOE via RSD over the last 3 years (while increasing his overall payroll by eliminating classified positions and replacing them with unclassified positions.) The payroll at RSD alone is 1/4th of the entire payroll at LDOE for 1/5th of the employees. Many of John White’s employees swap back and forth for budgeting reasons but, they all ultimately report to White.

RSD is the past, and it needs to be left in the past, and now is the time to do it.

John White claims he needs to start discussions and meetings to determine where to make layoffs. I actually have 108 employees to recommend eliminating right now (or maybe 109 depending on where Kunjan actually works).  It’s time to eliminate the RSD.

That is a real choice that would be good for just about everybody.

Eureka Math. . . (I can think of another expletive to describe it.)

Eureka Math. . . (I can think of another expletive to describe it.)

This is an update to a story I’ve been meaning to get back to for a while on Louisiana’s textbook selection and adoption process. According to my sources Louisiana required most vendors to pay 500 dollars per book to evaluate each grade level of each subject. I have no details of where those dollars went. I was told this was the first year the department ever charged to review books. I was also told the only two first tier (best according to LDOE) vendors that were selected (Eureka for Math and Core Knowledge for ELA) did not have to pay this fee, but I have not been able to confirm this. I received some information from sources that were able to acquire the lists of all external reviewers of textbooks. I have been able to contact some of these folks to confirm this, and have confirmed their participation through some of their own online postings. I will not be turning over all of the research files as yet, but I will be publishing the names of the Math reviewers. There were only 7 reviewers for the Math curriculum selected for the entire state (15 reviewers were used for the ELA evaluation.) I have tried interviewing and questioning these folks either on or off the record, but none have agreed to comment on the selection process – even after replying to me initially. I would like to know how they were compensated, whether their instructions involved assessing the quality of the materials (which is particularly lacking with the first tier Eureka materials) among other things.

Louisiana Textbook Reviewers by Review Area

Review Area Fname Lname
Math K-5 Brittany Bush (K-5)
Math K-5 Katie Dunn (K-5)
Math K-5 Laci Maniscalco (K-5)
Math K-5 Kristina Morris (K-5)
Math 6-8, 9-12 Aquanetta Archangel
Math 6-8, 9-12 Tamara Whittington
Math 6-8, 9-12 Jessica Hunter


My earlier story can be found here:

It appears John White, Superintendent of Education, has links to the only two tier one options selected, including one which is run by his former employers, Joel Klein, now the head of Amplify – a Rupert Murdoch (NewsCorp) subsidiary and sole provider of Core Knowledge published products. If this situation sounds familiar, you aren’t wrong. Jindal’s former head of the Department of Health and Hospitals, Bruce Greenstein, was just indicted on numerous counts of perjury related to tampering with the theoretically unbiased selection process or a 200+ million dollar Medicaid contract with Bruce Greenstein’s former employer, CNSI. I wonder if there is not some unsavory influences at work here as well. I really find it hard to believe Eureka is far and away the best Math product on the market and I’ve had firsthand experience with them and a tier 2 product that while not awesome, is much better than Eureka in my opinion (and my daughter throws fewer tantrums with this new one so I think she’s having an easier time of it too.)

I was provided this preliminary research by my source although you can find much more in LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, school websites, Stand For Children materials, LDOE’s website (lauding the choices with quotes without mentioning they were part of the selection committee), Facebook, etc.

  General Information 225-343-9364 5th grade teacher Capitol Elem
  charter school teacher New Beginnings Charter New Orleans Broadmoor Elem 3rd gr Received $$ stipend and from publisher “LearnZillion” Curr: went to SF, CA been teaching for 2 years and 3 months “GOOGLE” Nette Archangel I.A. Lewis School in Ruston LA, graduate of LA Tech teaching maybe 5 years Hammond Jr HS Magnet
no info Sterlington HS, Ouchita Schools
James Ward Elem in Jennings LA


I think my inquiries were pretty non-threatening although I am a stranger. . .

I was given a list of all the folks who reviewed the various textbooks last year and assigned them to various “tiers”.  Only 1 math option and one ELA option made it into tier one.  I am trying to learn more about the process, instructions you were given, and how it came to be that in your case only one math provider, Eureka, made it into Tier one.  We can converse on or off the record.  I have sent or am sending e-mails to all math reviewers.

My children are also in public elementary schools and our LEA chose Eureka after going with a related version, EngageNY last year.  I see some assignments that are interesting, but many that seem overly cumbersome, and with very poor quality in the instructions and examples departments.  I was wondering how closely you and your teammates reviewed these materials, whether you were able to take into account quality and accuracy or materials, whether you really felt these were a solid choice, the best choice, or the best of available bad choices perhaps?  Parents send me examples of their assignments and i see various ones posted different places.

Some teachers firmly embrace Common Core and some have significant problems with it.  From reviewing the profiles of the reviewers i feel pretty sure everyone really embraces Common Core that was on the selection team so i am seeking some perspective and insight from that side of the debate.  Sometimes when we like something, especially more than the alternative, we tend to overlook the flaws or measure them against our past experiences and options.  I was wondering if you think that might have occurred, perhaps in retrospect?  Any insight you can provide will be appreciated.


Perhaps coworkers can get more out of these folks?

I’m not really interested in calling their motivations into question, but I just want some answers to my questions. However, I do wonder if this set of teachers has all the necessary qualifications to evaluate materials for the entire state. I think it is important for school districts to understand who exactly made these evaluative decisions when factoring how they will invest their limited resources. I know firsthand that EngageNY was terrible, and first tier Eureka (as defined by these reviewers) is just EngageNY that costs money fraught with many of the same issues. Thankfully EBR ditched EngageNY/Eureka this year (they tried it out last year and found it very lacking) and went with a tier 2 product this year which while still perplexing and strangely worded at times, is much less error prone and confusing (or just plain wrong) than EngageNY/Eureka. Many parents are discovering this the hard way. I think the department and these evaluators should answer whether they felt comfortable evaluating this curriculum for the entire state. Several teachers only had a few years of teaching experience under their belts, yet they were responsible for evaluating 6 or more grade levels of content.

What are your thoughts on the math materials/curriculum your school district has adopted? It seems St Tammany and Calcasieu parents are pretty dissatisfied with Eureka based on the school board meetings I’ve seen reviewed in the news (and from parents on Facebook) . . .

Did the state really identify the best curriculum available by selecting Eureka, or do you think they really dropped the ball here?

Is this the test-tube creation of John White?

Standardized Lying

Standardized Lying

Student performance in Louisiana is dropping rapidly. The decline started just about the time John White became superintendent of Education and has accelerated rapidly with the introduction of Common Core in Louisiana schools. Based on a sample analysis of the very meager data LDOE finally released under threat of lawsuit it is clear that not only is student performance not increasing or staying steady, it Is in fact declining, and being masked by a lowering of the number of correct answers required to pass LEAP and iLEAP tests. Please refer to this post by Mike Deshotels and the analysis provided by Herb Bassett for the details. Below is an excerpt from Mike’s blog.

Here is the table supplied by the LDOE as a result of my public records request:


Notice that for 4th grade ELA, 4th grade Math, and 8th grade Math, there was a significant lowering of the percentage of correct answers needed to get a rating of basic. The Science and Social Studies percentages were changed very little from 2013 to 2014.

Would you like to know why such a high percentage of our students (64%) were able to reach the level of Basic this year on a more difficult 8th grade Math test? Herb Bassett calculates that using the same method of guessing described above, 8th grade students this year on the average would need to know only 20.2% of the math material on the test to reach the level of Basic.


What this means is simple terms is that Louisiana students are about 18% less prepared now in 4th grade in English Language Arts, and 28% percent less prepared in Math by the time the reach 8th grade than they were before John White and Common Core started being used in Louisiana schools. 8th grade ELA seems to be about the same. (My guess is this ability evened out as children read more books outside of school. That’s actually how I acquired my skills.) 4th Grade Math takes about a 10% hit in 4th grade, and children’s abilities seem to deteriorate going forward based on the 8th grade results.

This data actually matches up with information being supplied by teachers and parents. I can see why John White would have been so reticent to release this information except under court order and legal proceeding. This is not a local phenomenon. New York has discovered the same subterfuge in their state.

I don’t have magical powers, but I can confidently predict this is something you will find and see happening across the nation, especially in education Reformer infested territories. There is nothing standardized about the testing of Common Core, the only standardization comes in in the form of lying about it.

Proponents of Common Core, and the High Stakes testing required by it, have claimed the comparability of test scores across states will make for meaningful comparisons. To have this meaningful comparison, all states must teach the same curriculum and all must administer identical tests from one of the two federally funded consortiums (Smarter Balanced and PARCC). However neither consortium controls the cut scores; those are entirely in the control of the states. These scores can go up or down as local politics require.

Let me spell this out for you. If you want to show progress in your state you can artificially inflate the scores to show improvement. If you need to make a case for more charter schools and school closures simply lower the scores and take them over and then raise the score back to show that reform worked. That is exactly what Louisiana has done and no doubt other reform markets as well. The actual data shows the Reforms, including Common Core, have had the exact opposite effect, and a very dramatic one.

Even though the proposed tests are identical, even though the curriculum is identical, the actual scores and their meanings are left up to individual states to determine. That fact nullifies the argument for identical standardized tests and even the need for a standardized curriculum. Our scores, our levels of achievement, will not be and are not comparable to scores in other states. These tests are actually the opposite of comparable. NAEP and DEIBELS are national tests that are comparable, and neither of them requires a standardized curriculum nor extensive, expensive, technology intensive, obsessive testing, like Common Core does.

Most people won’t understand why that’s important. Even if some people do understand this shell game, most states will do whatever they can to prevent the public from learning about this practice in a timely manner (as Louisiana and John White has done). This is really a pretty important finding. It confirms anecdotal evidence many parents and teachers have experienced in school and in their homes. This finding drives a stake through the heart of the educational vampire known as Common Core.

Unfortunately Common Core vampires are very real. The corporately funded, Reformer and National teacher union embraced propaganda promoting Standardized Tests linked to Common Core as the cure-all for educational inequality and systemic and endemic poverty is the myth. Really, when you think about it, which is really the more believable reality?

CCVampireneed CC please help

Common Core Chaos, Loss and Betrayal

Common Core Chaos, Loss and Betrayal

Recently I was interviewed by WAFB about the latest developments in Louisiana’s Common Core lawsuit saga and the recent court loss. You can see the full story here:

On a personal note, I was amused that this was a story I’d watched earlier in the day while working out, but without sound. I remember wondering what the folks were saying, but figured it was just a bunch of face saving and sparring . . . and that I’d probably never know. I wasn’t far off of my analysis, but I was wrong about not seeing it again. A few hours later I was weighing in on the situation myself and ended up appended to the same video. Lol. That’s a strange feeling to be sure. Earlier in the week I was contacted by Motoko Rich at the New York Times to provide some background and commentary. I actually didn’t know I would end up being quoted, I’ve been contacted by reporters at various times and outlets to provide background info from a local perspective and I usually try to point reporters to other folks if I can. Tonight I was contacted by a producer from Al Jazeera, America to explain some of the complex issues and nuances in our Common Core battle. I’ve gotten some feedback that this contact makes people a little uneasy, but I try to keep an open mind. Maybe that’s my strength (or my Achilles Heel)? I prefer to think of it as the former.

Ultimately I can’t control what any of these folks do with the info I provide them, but I feel it is important to provide a counterpoint to the corporately funded Reform line on so many issues important to our community. Mainstream coverage is important and my blogging helps me break into that market. For instance, without mainstream media coverage by folks like Stephanie Simon at Reuters, I have little doubt that inBloom would still be in business selling out children’s data to not just the highest bidder, but any bidder.

Once this information gets out there, it’s going to be abused. There’s no doubt in my mind,” said Jason France, a father of two in Louisiana.

In case you were wondering, I think the above linked article by Stephanie Simon was perhaps the most important story in terms of raising national awareness of this issue as an issue that we should all be concerned about. We can’t know who our next Stephanie Simon will be ahead of time though.

I’ve provided info and interviews to folks at the Advocate, Reuters, LPB, Monroe News star, NPR, Louisiana Anthology, WBOK, Al Jazeera, Channel 2, Channel 9, and various New York Times folks on numerous occasions, researchers, documentary makers and many, many blogs. Sometimes it’s been flattering coverage, sometimes not so much. (You’d think I’d be better at it by now too, but hey, we can’t all be reality stars.) I’m still (not so secretly) hoping I get a call from the Daily Show or Colbert Report to do a segment or to even just be an audience member. (They had Michele Rhee on, and she’s a fraud who recently resigned her position at Student’s First in disgrace, so why not me, right?)

But wow, that was a digression, wasn’t it?

Let me bring this back in.

What I can control is the content of my blog.

Let me state up front: I did not initially flag Common Core as a problem. I was concerned with charters, virtual schools, data, VAM, privacy, RSD, school based corporal punishment, accountability, dropout rates, shadow schools, massive layoffs, excessive discipline rates, data quality, TFA taking over LDOE, vouchers, MFP funding, Special Education and 504 issues, poor teacher evaluation systems, and so forth. You’d think that would be enough! J

It took some researching, numerous discussions and investigations and real world experiences for me to see the harm it posed and the great corporate specter behind its creation and implementation. When I looked at my daughter’s homework assignments, Math especially, I became very alarmed and disturbed and wrote about my experiences. A lot of people identified with my raw post, which also contained details about how Common Core was secretly (basically since no one really knew what they heck it was) adopted in Louisiana before the Standards were even published or finalized. But the story didn’t end there.

A lot of parents had problems across the spectrum of Common Core assignments and curriculum. Some parents in some settings had minimal issues, or didn’t care. Organizations like LaBAEO and Louisiana Stand For Children came out strongly in support of Common Core. Most folks didn’t realize these organizations are headed by former senior staffers from the Louisiana Department of Education, Kenneth Campbell and Rayne Martin. I’m not sure of Kenneth’s situation, but I know Rayne is not an educator nor a parent. She is highly compensated by out of state funders and supporters of Common Core. She is a “reformer” that was living in Chicago until former RSD superintendent, the nomadic and politically connected Paul Vallas (former Illinois Governor candidate currently running for Illinois Lieutenant Governor after being chased out of his Connecticut superintendent position he was determined by their court system to be illegally placed in) brought Rayne here a half dozen years ago, and now she runs an organization called Louisiana Stand for Children (of which she has none.)

I showed up to BESE meetings where cadres of redshirted Exxon “Common Core cheerleaders” showed up for a few minutes and testified en masse about how awesome high standards were for STEM careers (ahead of all the parents who had been waiting all day to speak) and then filed out immediately after – after cheering each other on.

I attended meetings and heard stories from parents who had tried to meet with officials from the Louisiana Department of Ed, their BESE members, or in some cases their local school boards, where instead of listening to their concerns, they were lectured. . . for hours, and commanded to sit passively and just listen. At the end these folks giving presentations, like BESE members James Garvey, Holly Boffy and regional leaders like Gayle Sloan could not answer questions and did not register, acknowledge or report parents’ concerns, after wasting so much of parents’ time and patience.

This went on for more than a year into the implementation, and goes on today. The implementation of Common Core in Louisiana was also likely sabotaged by John White on purpose, with dueling implementation dates, conflicting messages, and what looked like (to me) as intentionally mixed signals. It is not even a widely disputed fact that the Louisiana implementation and rollout was terrible, uneven and completely bungled in many cases. Rather than acknowledge the failings, address parents’ concerns, and address or acknowledge widely agreed upon shortcomings in the initial rollout and gaps in the standards, LDOE and so many groups inside and outside the state closed ranks and closed their eyes to the chaos swirling around them; that they created. Rather than address the deficiencies head-on and honestly they chose to ignore them, to point to deficiencies in the old curriculum (in a never ending circular he-said/she-said finger pointing contest), or point to their lofty goals which for which they had no evidence their Common Core standards and curriculum could achieve – even if the goal was something everyone wanted to achieve.

Look! It’s magic, and 100% evidence and fact free!

Parents had and have real problems and questions with Common Core, and all they get are fluff PR pieces like this willfully ignorant infographic. Many of those opposed to Common Core are professionals, Engineers, Programmers, Writers, Doctors, Lawyers, PHd’s, Teachers, University Professors, Scientists. We understand what the STEM careers demand, because we work in them, and we are not buying what the Common Core folks are selling.

I understand this was a very ambitious project. I understand the goals on Common Core (I just happen to not agree with them.) I don’t think the sole purpose of public education is preparing students for community colleges and introductory careers they are never able to grow out of. There may be a place for those, but our current education system allows (or allowed) students to acquire educations in a broad range of subjects, to become informed and responsible citizens and to hopefully learn to enjoy learning for its own sake, and not just for test score or accolade. The US has never been leader in test scores that the Reform movement implies we were; or should aspire to be. We got where we are in the world based on our freedom of thought and creativity, neither of which are quantifiable or test well. Some of our greatest minds were not that scholastically adept or persistent. Bill Gates, who is pushing the college and career ready curriculum dropped out of college to found one of the most important tech companies of the last century (Microsoft) and became the wealthiest person on the planet in doing so.

Add to that list these innovative college dropout billionaires:

Many of who are pushing the Reform agenda and urgent need for increasing test scores. I have to wonder if we’d even have computers (at least to the extent we have today) now if these guys:

  • Michael Del (Dell)
  • Steve Jobs (Apple)
  • Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)
  • Larry Ellison (Oracle)
  • Bill Gates (Microsoft)

had been subjected to Common Core instead of being able to experiment in their electronics garage hobbies and electives and exercise their imaginations.

I’m not suggesting college is unimportant or that everyone should dropout and try their hand at creating a tech startup. I am explaining why it is hypocritical for folks like Bill Gates to demand this as the only path for everyone and I am suggesting if we forsake education for the sake of test scores we are doing ourselves a vast disservice. This is the ultimate tail wagging the dog situation. Tests were meant to give us a baseline to judge student performance. Tests were never meant to be the end all be all for education. That move is beyond just foolish, it is destructive and ridiculous. But to understand why these successful and smart folks think they know more than you do, in fields they’ve never experienced success but which their vast fortunes allows them access to alter the landscape in fundamental ways. You must understand these folks think in data points. If something is not measurable it is not valued. Many things in life are important but not measurable. Faith. Love. Spirit. Freedom. Imagination. Creativity. Education is one of those immeasurable things too. We can roughly measure how many words you know, or math problems you can solve, but we can’t measure everything you know or might think. Education is not just about numbers and words, not just about what we know, but what we can create with our minds and what we can learn in the future. Once we leave schools, we no longer take tests, but we must always learn to live, to grow in our relationships with each other, to take care of our children, neighbors, family and country, and to master the skills of the various jobs we will hold throughout our lifetime. After formal schooling I’ve learned numerous computer languages, software applications, reporting tools and even picked up an avocation or two that required a great deal of self-study, motivation and very little in the way of formalized recognition and rewards. The latter is learning and education for its own sake. What I have described will be the majority of life for everyone but eternal academics. Preparing students for endless Common Core testing (so we adults can feel better about providing measurably identical “educations”) is not preparing students for life – quite the opposite.

So when Bobby Jindal seemed to come to our rescue in the anti-Common Core camp, I admit I was overly trusting. I had been assured this move was coming for months ahead of time. Bobby Jindal seemed to speak passionately and say the right things (for the most part.) I tried to explain away the warnings I received from numerous sources claiming this was a carefully orchestrated ruse. I really didn’t give him enough credit to pull that kind of ruse off, but I had been told this was a ploy to take the heat off Jindal from the conservative groups, Tea Party groups, and to give Jindal a stance and platform to differentiate himself from other potential Republican presidential candidates. Victories have been few and far between but I liked to think that wasn’t influencing my hopeful thoughts. . . but the pieces weren’t adding up. Jindal donated and channeled massive amounts of funding to candidates that put John White in place. Surely that would give him some pull with some of those folks? But every one of those folks he helped elect not only refused to consider his demand to end Common Core, they voted to sue him. . . personally. . . claiming he was violating the state’s constitution. Not a light matter. But that wasn’t all. Jindal appoints three members to BESE’s 11 member Board. He recently appointed Jane Smith, knowing she was opposed to Common Core, which seemed like a positive move. But she only had two allies on BESE to give them a 3 to 8 voting bloc. Jane has been a valiant fighter, but she’s not enough to alter the basic power equation. Jindal’s other two appointees also ignored their boss who appointed them and also voted (or allowed the others to vote at times) to sue the Governor who has appointed them as his representative voice. I can understand having minor disagreements, but this is a major, big time, enormous departure! Jindal has never been shy about seeking revenge on those who cross him, including a previous BESE member named Tammie McDaniel who Jindal demanded resign after she voted a way he didn’t like on a single issue. Tammie was replaced by Connie Bradford, who remains untouched for her seeming brazen defiance. That was a head scratcher. For a list of some of the other folks Jindal has sacked for even minor offenses look here. So that doesn’t add up one bit. If they were really defying the governor they could be “Tegued” as the term Tom Aswell from Louisiana Voice has coined to describe the consistent (until now) phenomenon of how Jindal handles anyone who disagrees with him to even the slightest degree in public.

But the final and ridiculous last straw is how Jimmy Faircloth, Jindal’s “defense” attorney chose not to defend Jindal’s executive orders to prevent LDOE from purchasing PARCC tests in a partial ploy to exert pressure on John White and LDOE to reconsider remaining in PARCC and Common Core. For the ruling refer to this and pay attention to page 4. I’ve copied the relevant section below, but here’s the gist. Jindal’s team did not present any witnesses, like Kristy Nichols, to explain how the contract procedures are supposed to work. Kristy was available for media statements afterwards and did testify at BESE, just not under oath. Jindal’s team did not explain or refute the claim that the damage irreparable. It was illusory, certainly not irreparable, and any “perceived” damage could be easily remedied numerous ways. Jindal’s team did not even make the correct argument to judge Hernandez, the one that they explained outside of court. Jindal’s team threw this fight. Their argument and approach wasn’t the strongest to begin with, but this loss is not just inexcusable, it’s ridiculous and intentional. I would much rather have an enemy I know, than an enemy masquerading as a friend, that betrays you at the last minute after you had placed your hopes with them. The chaos we are experiencing was intentionally fomented by John White, Chas Roemer and Bobby Jindal to distract people and wear them out. This betrayal was planned.

Sadly, this is just another ruse perpetrated by those in power to avoid listening to parents’ real problems, and another reason parents are right to fear and fight Common Core. I expect this distraction to last until Jindal leaves office. John White and Chas Roemer were correct when they stated Jindal’s opposition to Common Core was politically motivated. The irony is that they were quite likely complicit in the deception from the get-go; to increase all of their profiles. That ploy has worked. Now we get to decide if their profiles are ultimately positively or negatively impacted by this fiasco.












As the new school year begins. . .

As the new school year begins. . .

As the new school year begins I find myself more than a bit confused by what is going on in Louisiana education these days. Lately it’s felt a little like forces outside of my control are dictating the outcomes of a whole lot of situations (with a whole lot of crazy) mixed in with a generous helping of frivolous lawsuits. I use the word frivolous not because the topics are unimportant, but because I don’t really see anything coming from them in a timely manner. Jindal will be wrapping up his second term by the time anything substantive takes place with his lawsuit, and the odds makers in Vegas probably have David Vitter pegged as our next chief executive.  Vitter has come out strongly in favor of Common Core (after initially sending out fundraising requests deriding it as a Washington plot to take over our schools.) My guess is David got some nice fat checks from Common Core corporations, wrapped in a diaper, to change his mind (and diaper) at the same time.

But back to more important things. . . like what I’ve been doing. :)

I have been chatting with folks from across the political spectrum and on both sides of the education reform/pro-public education issue and have come across some well-meaning folks on both sides that appear to want many of the same things I do, but have different ways and ideas for achieving those. Something I found disturbing was what Reformers tell their allies about us.  Let me dispel some myth reformers like to spin about pro-public education folks. I believe just about anything is possible and almost nothing is perfect . . . so almost anything can be improved with constructive criticism and honest analysis. This comes as a shock for some reform folks when I talk to them. Reformers narrative about us in the pro-public education camp is that we are for the status quo (whatever that is), we are for doing nothing, standing still, ignoring problems and blindly supporting teachers unions. This is a ridiculous falsehood. Quite often we have been fighting the very same policies they claim to want to do away with; policies put in place by the very people same advocating for new policies; as if they had nothing to do with the state of education and many of the legitimate problems we all see!

Is it any wonder so many of us fight back against new untried ideas and policies promoted by the same people that promoted that last slew of horrible ones? Every day many of the Reform ideas of the last decade are now clearly shown to be big losers.,There is still no admission of this, just another set of new new untried ideas an no accountability for the string of failures Reformers discard (and distance themselves from.)

Recently (like a few hours ago) I got in a Twitter argument with a Reformer that claimed his side was being maligned by all that money from us pro-public ed folks. I was incredulous to say the least. Billions are spent by US Ed, numerous billionaire philanthropists like the Waltons, Bloomberg, Gates, Broad, not to mention the countless departments of education (like Louisiana’s department of education) that employ thousands of people full-time to advocate for their policies on the public dime.

crazy crawfish ‏@crazycrawfish  · 5h

@Perapiteticus @DmitriMehlhorn we can’t find truth when so many in Reform movement spend so much time energy & money lying & r rewarded 4 it

Dmitri Mehlhorn ‏@DmitriMehlhorn  · 5h

@crazycrawfish @Perapiteticus Many reformers feel that way about other side. Lots of money spent attacking reform, much of it not nice.

2:18 PM – 15 Aug 2014 · Details

Reply to @DmitriMehlhorn @Perapiteticus

 crazy crawfish ‏@crazycrawfish  · 5h

@DmitriMehlhorn @Perapiteticus lots of money????? Are we in same country let alone same ballpark here? Reformers spend money to make money

 Perapiteticus ‏@Perapiteticus  · 5h

@crazycrawfish @DmitriMehlhorn You’re concerned with BATs? We’re outspent, what? 10-to 1, 20-1, 50-1? Truth has funny way of edging door ope

 Dmitri Mehlhorn ‏@DmitriMehlhorn  · 5h

@Perapiteticus @crazycrawfish Unions have $2.2b in annual revenue from compulsory dues. Reformers have tiny % from voluntary gifts.

Sahila ChangeBringer ‏@Kiwigirl58  · 5h

@DmitriMehlhorn have 2 ask U this – R U serious? Have U any idea what @BillGates, all by himself, has spent? @crazycrawfish @Perapiteticus

crazy crawfish ‏@crazycrawfish  · 5h

@DmitriMehlhorn @Perapiteticus Note to Reformers: if you want good publicity and people saying nice things about you, don’t be jerks. TYVM

Apparently the only voices Reformers hear are those of unions, but not us poor parents they claim to speak for. If they really listened to us they wouldn’t have to spend so much money (and feel so put upon they feel the need to cry about it on Twitter.)

Unlike most reformers, I do not receive money for my advocacy.

Unlike most Reformers I actually have kids, and I actually put my kids in the school systems I advocate for.

Reformers claim their charters are so successful (although they often refuse to produce any data that shows this in Louisiana) that these charter schools should replace all traditional schools (literally, they send out e-mails that say this.) If their reforms have made traditional public school systems so awesome, if all charters are so incredible they require zero supervision or minimal review processes, why do reformers always enroll their own kids in exclusive private schools that employ very little of the policies and curricula they insist on for everyone else’s children? (This is not a trick question, it’s an obvious one more reporters should be asking.)

Reformers name themselves and their groups StudentsFirst and Stand for Children to pre-emptively declare themselves and their morals and motivations to be pure and child centered.  How many times have you heard them declaring something is necessary to do “for the children?”  Seriously. “Why would they lie to us,” they seem to say when they have the word children or students in their name. . .  These groups are founded on lies, cloaked in lies, supported by shrouded benefactors that benefit from the reforms they tell us are “for our own good.” These groups are defended by faux researcher organizations and act as foundries for manufacturing more lies and to perpetuate the ones they have sent out among the media and the masses. Despite their lofty self-anointed titles, these Reform groups are principally preoccupied with teacher’ issues (namely defaming and defiling the legitimate teaching profession and teachers) and promoting charter schools at all costs. Eventually folks do catch on, as happened to Rheeform darling Michele Rhee, who like a run of the mill disgraced politician facing a sex scandal or cocaine addiction, has stepped down from the lofty post she created for herself to “spend more time with her family”.   Rather than sex or drugs, her failing was her personality and charm (or lack thereof), so not much to fix there! Rhee’s family lives in Tennessee, with her husband Superintendent of Tennessee schools Kevin Huffman, while Michele has remained in California and appears poised to take over running some California charters for good ole Kev, so I’m not sure how that spending more time with her family works exactly?  Will she be tweeting more often to them in between pot shots at real educators?  Perhaps liking more Facebook posts of her children?  Don’t get me wrong, I think she should definitely spend more time worrying about her family and less about mine.  I just don’t get I I suppose, but then so little that national Reformers leaders say makes any sense to me. . . and truthfulness has never been one of their strong suits.

Now while I am pretty harsh and unforgiving to the leaches leading the Rheeform movement, I feel it’s important to point out not all Reform allied folks understand this complete disconnect and disregard for honesty or facts. Some are lulled by the seductively compelling marketing and messaging of for profit charter schools and the various hedge fund entrepreneurs and bored billionaires that fund the reform movement.  Unlike Andrew Carnegie who donated his vast fortune to build up schools and universities across the United States, today’s billionaires apparently see destroying education as a philanthropic mission to remake our society to their liking.

Reform organizations actively create and support cultish brainwashing organizations like what Teach for America has become and the sibling organization The New Teacher Project was designed to be, to subvert impressionable and passionate college students and recent graduates. These groups and their members in turn branch out into other organizations and infiltrate all corners of our society. (I will have more on this development in later posts I have planned but exploring this issue could take a whole book.) Many of these folks don’t understand who we, in the pro-public education movement, are. They have quite literally been brainwashed with tactics not far removed from the latest psyops manual or Nazi propaganda program. They have been told to fear us, they have been told we are the enemy. They are taught chants that dehumanize us and extol their movement’s virtues. To them teachers and society are apathetic, lazy and incompetent, and that apathy is the enemy – thus so are we. These groups form their own secret societies and covens where they are instructed to limit contact with local communities and leaders. They judge us through carefully crafted windowed narratives.

It would be easy to judge them, as they so often judge us, but many of these youth are idealistic victims that we can reach with compassion, persistence, honesty, competence, knowledge and our humanity. To break the back of this reform Beast they have created we must reach these youth and get them to tell their stories for others to hear as this former TFA teacher has done. We musty enlist those we can to our side – not with coercion, threats, lies, fear or hate but with truth and honesty. We must let them ask the hard questions their leaders won’t have pat and rehearsed answers for. They can awaken from the Matrix world that TFA and the Reform movement has created for them. Not all will take the red pill, because what they will see will shatter a lot of what they have worked hard for and believe, but those that do will be some of our strongest and most devoted allies. They will show they are the education leaders they want to be. They will learn that road is a hard one; not lined with cushy high paying jobs, lazy fellowships and blank checks and free rides to grad schools of their choosing carelessly paved with edReform dollars on the bowed backs of poor children – education dollars that should go to underfunded communities and schools.  These idealistic kids should really know better, but who wouldn’t like to believe they could make a small fortune and make the world a better place at the same time for those less fortunate? Coming from elite private colleges and sheltered upbringings many of them already come from gilded backgrounds. It’s not a very hard sell and they have to do something with those, history, general studies, English, and Poli Sci degrees. While they figure out what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives. . . why not help some of us poor Southerner’s out?  The messaging they are bombarded with is we can’t take care of ourselves so the have to save us from ourselves.

They tell us our kids are as smart as any in the rest of the nation. If they were half as smart as they think they are, if they were one of us, they would realize how condescending and insulting that statement is by now.

It’s about time we showed those condescending creeps our kids’ parents know a thing or two as well. It’s time to take back our Department of Education and our local schools. I actually believe our parents are smarter and more savvy than the rest of the nation (we are survivors and not all our skills can be tracked with penciled in bubbles) and it’s about time we showed it. We gave a previews by kicking out inBloom first, passing real state privacy protections first. Common Core banishment is coming. It’s time we evicted out Reformers and their corporate charter thieves. We should do this first and took back our local control and show the nation how’s it’s done. We can do this.

Our kids are just as smart, eh John White?

Who you been talkin’ to that’s says they ain’t; that you feel this needs to be a talking point in every speech you make? Jus’ ’cause we choose to talk a little different sometime don’t mean we stupid, test bubble boy.


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On behalf of all Louisiana parents, please shut the hell up.



Update On the “100 Summer Interns” Story

Update On the “100 Summer Interns” Story

It took some detective work, and reviewing of records from other agencies, but I was able to locate 16 summer interns and 14 student workers on LDOE’s payroll for a total of 30 student workers employed this summer. That’s still a lot of kids roaming around the halls of the department so I can see why it might seem like 100 interns. The highest paid interns earned 20 dollars per hour or the equivalent of around 40k if they were paid annually. The total payroll for all student workers comes to around 350k. All 30 student interns make up about 7-8% of LDOE’s total workforce as of July 2014. LDOE had contracts for at least 5 of their summer interns which I was able to uncover which LDOE did not turn over to me in response to my records request. All of these contracts would now exceed the 2k limit Bobby Jindal has now placed on the Louisiana Department of Education, which I would advise he keep in place indefinitely. If a state department can’t keep track of their own contracts they certainly should not be issuing them. I’m still not quite sure why LDOE refused to supply any information for my very reasonable Freedom of Information request and instead chose to wait two weeks before responding that they had no records responsive to my request.

I noted a few of the student workers and interns are children of current and former employees, but they are making the least amount – barely above minimum wage. I have chosen to withhold the actual names of the student workers and summer interns from this piece but listed below are the areas they are assigned to in the department.

Let me know if you would like to know anything else about the student workers or summer interns.

Since I ran my story on the interns LDOE has been slightly more responsive to my inquiries on other issues which was what I hoped would happen when I published the information I had received in tips. LDOE refused to admit to having any records on summer Interns when I sent them a snippet of their own newsletter (one of several they sent around) announcing these interns. At the very least they should have provided me the newsletters and contracts they had in their possession and which now I have in mine. As for my other stories. . . I think you will be surprised and dismayed to learn what I have been able to deduce from information recently released to me. In some areas it is not as bad as I feared, but in others it is worse. Now I have the actual data to support many of the arguments I have been making over the last few years in regards to RSD, dropouts, graduate counts and charter schools. I much prefer cold hard data (or even the warm squishy data LDOE produces these days which I choose not to speculate on the origins of) over rumor and innuendo. . . but I am also not content to allow LDOE to continue to hide behind a veil of secrecy and reflexive denial as appears to have occurred in the Intern situation.

I am still waiting on some requests to be forthcoming but since the response times have dramatically increased lately I feel comfortable I’ve given the department enough time to respond to my inquiries about press releases they produced two weeks ago.

Did LDOE hire 100 summer Interns at 25,000 a piece?

Did LDOE hire 100 summer Interns at 25,000 a piece?

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:     

Mr. France:

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.

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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.