Friday, April 25, 2014

John White: Ed-Reform's Boy Wonder

After attending just nearly every House Education Committee meeting and several Senate Education meetings during this legislative session, the LaPACC ladies have made some observations. These are not by any means NEW observations; just new to us and possibly many of the other parents new to this debacle of education legislation.  

For pretty much every education bill that comes up, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Louisiana State Superintendent of Education, John White will be there.  This dude has some serious pull…. way too much.  Once you know a thing or two about John White, you will almost certainly be left wondering “what in the world is going on”.  This man has catapulted his career from having no teaching degree all the way to becoming the Louisiana State Superintendent of Education in a VERY short amount of time.

Below is a timeline on our state superintendent of education, John C. White.   After reading the timeline, you will likely have the same questions that we do… how did he land “high up” position after “high up” position in such a short amount of time, and with such a short list of qualifications?  What in the world is going on?  Who is making this happen?  Why Louisiana?  In this blog post, we certainly will not answer all of those questions.  We hope to raise enough awareness of the situation that others will join in on the quest for answers.

We present to you the timeline in a condensed version first:  

1994-  Graduated High School
1998-  Graduated College (English degree)
           5 Week TFA Program 
           Taught 2 years in New Jersey High School
           Worked for TFA in NY to coach new TFA recruits
2004-   Executive Director TFA Chicago
2006-   Joins senior leadership team in the largest school district in America (NY)
2010-   Broad’s Superintendent Academy
2011-   Head of New Orleans Recovery School District
2012-   Louisiana State Superintendent 

At the present date John White is 38 years old, has 2 years classroom experience and is the MAIN MAN in Louisiana education with a sweet salary of $275,000 per year.  Hmmm… what’s up with that?

Let’s take a more detailed look:

1975 Born in Washington DC.  Dad is Lawyer.  Mom TV Journalist.  One younger brother who is an officer in the Navy.

1994 Graduated from St. Albans School (exclusive private school in Washington)

1998  B.A. In English from University of Virginia

JW went though the Teach For America program (Teach for America or TFA is a program that calls for a 5 week training period and two year commitment to teach in a low income and or rural area.  All you need is a college degree to participate…any college degree).

White got his very first teaching job teaching English at William L. Dickenson High School in New Jersey.  White taught for a whopping 2 years, and has not been a classroom teacher since.

For the next two years, John White worked for TFA in New York to coach new recruits. 

2004 White becomes the Executive Director of TFA-Chicago office.  He hold this position for three years.  

  • Served as lead developer of TFA’s national strategy committee.
  • Started a principle training and recruitment program with Harvard.
  • Became good buddies with Arne Duncan (CEO of Chicago public schools at the time) (5).  Duncan is also a product of the Chicago TFA scene. They have remained in close contact since their Chicago days.  White has said Duncan’s message was that if he wanted to change the way schools were run he should “just do it” rather than waiting for a master’s degree or some other credential. (2)

2006- White heads back to New York to join the senior leadership team as the Deputy Chancellor of Talent, Labor and innovation in New York (the largest school district in the country)  

  • Helped negotiate New York’s bid for R2T.  
  • Launched the “innovation zone” which is a network of 100 21st century schools that use technology to personalize learning. (Hmmm the word Data mining comes to mind…just sayin’)
  • For nearly two years he served as the “bearer of bad news”, closing low performing schools and putting charters in their place.

2010 White graduates from Eli Broad’s Broad Superintendent Academy (BSA)
  • 5 months of WEEKENDS to be certified to be a superintendent.
  • This program is known for prepping graduates to use their power to hand over public schools to the business interests…on a sliver platter!

January 2011:  Check out this video of JW closing yet another public school in New York.  

May 9, 2011:  White selected as the Superintendent of New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD
  • 35 years old.
  • Keep in mind, at this point White has 2 years classroom experience and has NEVER held a position of vice principal or principal. (At this point he is NOT QUALIFIED to be a principal or even an assistant principal).
  • Gates foundation gives $1 million to RSD in 2011.
  • April 2011 Duncan talks about White’s awesomeness (insert sarcasm) in New Orleans at a public appearance (5)
  • While still serving as the head of the RSD, Bobby Jindal declared his support for John White to serve as the interim Superintendent, finishing out Paul Pastorek’s term (Pastorek left his post 7 months early) while STILL serving as super of the RSD.

May 18, 2011:  Awarded his degree:  Master of Public Administration fro New York University

  • The information on the NYU website states that one can complete this degree in less than a year….Hmmm thats interesting.

The BESE saga.  This is a LONG SECTION of the timeline.  Be sure to soak it all in… this is the part of John White’s story that is really affecting our kid’s education.

January 2012 White is selected as the Louisiana State Superintendent of Education

  • U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said of this appointment, "John is a visionary leader who has done great things in New York City and New Orleans, and I’m confident he'll do the same for the whole state of Louisiana."  (Lord help us)
  • John White would need to be approved by the BESE board with a vote of at least 8 out of 11 members for the interim position, then again for the permanent position.
  • Arne Duncan reached out to BESE members Linda Johnson and Louelle Givens to “talk up” John White’s credentials. (8)

Note:  8 of the elected BESE members had to go up for reelection in the fall of 2011.  In January of 2012, they would have to vote to keep the interim leader (John White) or pick someone else.  Not leaving anything up to chance, LARGE sums of cash from pro-ed reform oriented donors come rolling in for the BESE board candidates. 

“…a coterie of extremely wealthy billionaires, among them New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, turned the races for unpaid positions on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) into some of the most expensive in the state’s history. Seven pro-education “reform” candidates for the BESE outraised eight candidates endorsed by the teacher’s unions by $2,386,768 to $199,878, a ratio of nearly twelve to one”. 
  • Bloomberg from New York $100,000 to Alliance for Better Classrooms (aka ABC, organized by Louisiana businessman Lane Grigsby).  ABC is a political action committee who worked REAL HARD to make sure JW got put in place. (9)  Bloomberg’s total contributions  to various candidates and organizations ran around $330,000.

Bloomberg gave $5,000 to Kira Jones, a TFA alum who ran for the New Orleans BESE seat.  Kira also got a nice $5,000 donation fro Eli Broad (Broad foundation…superintendent school), $5,000 from Reed Hastings (Netflix CEO), $10,000 from Walmart’s Carrie Walton Penner and husband

Why does New York Mayor Boomberg, The Netflix guy, Eli Broad, the Waltons all of the sudden have interest in the Louisiana BESE elections???  I’ll spell it out for you.  The State superintendent has the FINAL say in the approval of charter companies.  Charters= BIG BUCKS.  It’s called priming the pump!

  • Louisiana business Cajun Construction (owned by Lane Grisby) donated $90,000
                 ABC helped to get Holly Boffy elected.  

  • Jeb Bush used his reform-promoting organizations Foundation for Educational Excellence (FEE) and Chiefs for Change to funnel money into the October 2011 BESE elections; this ensured approval of John White as state education superintendent. (7)

Once White is approved as the State Superintendent of Education he:
  • Launched Louisiana Believes:  College and Career Ready Paths
  • Has a salary: 275,000/year
  • Has diligently “installed” SEVERAL TFA/TNTP alum into high up and high paid positions in LDOE (7).  Here are some examples from a blog post by education blogger Mercedes Schneider:
  • Jessica Tucker Baghian:  two years teaching experience.  Now the LDOE deputy chief of staff.  She earns $90,000 per year.
  • Kunjan Narechania: TFA alum. Now the LDOE Chief of staff.  Earns $145,000 per year.
  • Molly Horstsman.  2 years teaching experience via TFA. She is now the State teacher evaluation director, earning $77,000 per year. (Tell me that  this is not a slap in the face for a seasoned teacher to have a 27 year old with TWO years teaching experience directing evaluations)!

In addition to those examples, here is another:
  • JW a press secretary that earns $75,000 per year.  (It is our opinion that this individual probably earns his or her keep.  Polishing lies to make them more palatable has to be hard work)

This timeline does not show all of the “goofs” JW has made during his time in Louisiana.  If your stomach can handle any more, check out this blog post by the crazy crawfish: John White is doing a fantastic job (Jason, aka the crazy crawfish is excellent at the art of sarcasm).
Other info you may find interesting:  
We did find that he is or was married to Fianza Garza White, who never took residence in the state of Louisiana.  Does White plan to destroy Louisiana and then walk away?

There is an ugly monster hard at work in Louisiana.   Privatization of our schools:  Charters, Vouchers, Course Choice.   Although we REALLY DO NOT LIKE THE MAN, John White is not THE ugly monster.  He is more like the ugly monster’s agent, here in Louisiana.  John White makes the deals and clears the path for the ugly monster to do it’s work.  

The people who will profit from the bounty of the ugly monster have hand picked John White to do the exact things that he is doing in Louisiana.  You have to understand… Education gets roughly 40% of the state budget.  That is a LOT of money.  Big Business wants a piece of that government cheese. Instead of just robbing Uncle Sam directly, they instead create these “pipelines” to put (mostly) unqualified people like John White in a positions of great power, a position that they use to lay the groundwork for the privatization of education which results in HUGE profits for some.

It is SICKENING as parents to go to the Capitol and only get a mere 2 minutes to speak our piece.  There have been many weeks that we have parent after parent present FACTS about why we do or do not support a particular bill.  Then here comes John White, with whatever fairy tale he decides on for that particular day.  He gets to go up and speak for however long he wants.  The Education committee (for the most part) just sits and listens like they are in church listening to the preacher man.  And then the vote comes… in his favor EVERY time.

It’s time to stop looking the other way while this stranger from another state keeps doing what he is doing.  It’s time to realize just WHO is the leader of Louisiana education and decide that we can do better.  We need to turn “their” talking points on them:  We want higher standards for our leaders.  We need to raise the bar on who we put in charge.  We need rigorous qualifications for these people.

Another point to ponder… All of these reform efforts are supposedly to give Louisiana a boost, to better prepare OUR students for the future.  Why then do we bring in so many from outside of Louisiana?  Why not find the best and brightest from within our state for these positions?




  1. Nice work, ladies. There are many more TFA folks that you mentioned. Dozens. Also, they come and go pretty fast. Horstman has been gone for a year for instance. White and BESE control a minimum of 4.5 billion dollars in state and federal fund allocations every year. That does not factor in various grants. In 4 years a BESE member serves they will have overseen distribution of more than 18 billion dollars. Miniscule investment for such a monumental return.

    1. Oh I could have went on....and on.....and on....... I started to worry people would tune out! We really could do a WHOLE blog on JW... Hey that's a thought!

  2. Excellent work. Google Reed Hastings speech to the California association of charter schools. He says he is working toward 90% of US public school students being in charter schools by 2030. He's not only CEO of Netflix he founded Rocketship charter school chain. They cut costs with lots of computer time. No joke!


    I thought that you ladies might wish to add this to your list. Kudos to all of you in helping to rid our state of corrupted officials!