It has become so easy to catch Superintendent of Education John White in a lie that the exercise has also become boring.
The latest fabrication to come out of the Department of Education (DOE) was a simultaneous falsehood delivered to both LouisianaVoice and Crazy Crawfish and we’re both calling him out on it—simultaneously.
On Sunday, Oct. 14, LouisianaVoice submitted a public records request to White at 7:08 p.m. and a read receipt showed that he opened our email at 11:32 p.m. that same day.
Our request was straightforward enough, asking that White provide us with “all documents which indicate which employees, including your executive staff, in the Louisiana Department of Education have or will receive pay increases.”
A simple request to be sure and one with which it should have easy to comply.
Instead, the response we received on Monday, Oct. 14, was a lie, pure and simple.
“Our public information office has requested that I inform you that the Department is not in possession of any public records responsive to your request,” said the letter from department legal counsel Troy Humphrey.
That was a lie, as we learned from a similar request made to the Department of Civil Service. More about that later.
Fellow blogger Jason France, aka the Crazy Crawfish, http://crazycrawfish.wordpress.com/ has encountered similar difficulty getting straight answers from White and called the superintendent out on Wednesday.
Crazy Crawfish reprinted a Sept. 27 memorandum from White to DOE personnel in which White said budgetary constraints forced him to implement a hiring freeze after Oct. 7. He also said the department “will not provide performance adjustments (raises) this year.”
He said he would re-evaluate that decision later to determine if “one-time incentive award(s) to our employees” could be made.
While technically correct, there are no fewer than 43 DOE employees who received pay increases totaling nearly $500,000 (an average of $11,600 each) from September 2012 to October 2013.
What’s more, there were 40 new hires during this same time period totaling $3 million, or $75,000 per new employee.
So how could White say there would be no raises but at the same time bumped the salaries of 43 employees by an average of $11,600—some by as much as $40,000 and more?
Simple. He borrowed a page from the playbook of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
The Department of Civil Service, in providing figures to LouisianaVoice, noted that the majority of the salary increases “are the result of reallocations in career progression group, promotions, or movement from part-time to full-time.”
That’s what Walker did in Wisconsin, according to a story published this week. He created what is classified as “phantom jobs” to boost the salaries of his top aides. He simply shifts employees from one position to another, and back again, giving them healthy pay bumps at each stop along the way, thus circumventing state personnel rules limiting pay increases.
One employee, for example, received an increase of $11,100—from $60,902 to $72,000—when she was promoted from an Education Program Consultant 2 to Education Program Consultant 4.
Another got a $13,000 bump—from $65,200 to $78,200—when promoted from Education Consultant to IT Management Consultant I.
Three others received pay raises of $40,500, $49,400 and $54,200 respectively when they went from, in order, Educational Assistant to Educational Program Consultant 3, from Educational Assistant to Executive Management Officer 1, and from Instructor to Educational Program Consultant 3.
As noted by our friend the Crazy Crawfish, White brought in new hires with such vague titles as “Advisor” ($60,000), “Director” ($90,000), “Consultant” ($95,000) and “Fellow” ($100,000, $95,000 and $70,000). Apparently some fellows are worth more than other fellows.
White also “promoted” one employee from Computer Graph Designer at $39,000 to Public Information Officer 1 at $44,200, an increase of $5,200, and he had a new hire of a Public Information Officer 2 at $50,600.
This from a department that steadfastly refuses to release any public information unless threatened with litigation—with litigation sometimes even becoming necessary.
And keep in mind, these new hires and pay raises disguised as promotions and reassignments came during a time when White claimed it was necessary to lay off dozens of DOE employees.
Crazy Crawfish said it best when he said John White is just not honest.
“Unclassified personnel can be fired at will,” he said. “They should have been the first to go before scores of classified employees were laid off. He was not honest about raises to select employees. He was not honest about being under financial hardship and needing to lay off scores of employees when he can hire dozens more…”
To that we can only refer that that infamous email to the governor’s office in which White said he planned to “take some air out of the room” in upcoming testimony to legislators about the approval of 315 vouchers for New Living Word school in Ruston, a facility lacking in classrooms, textbooks and staff.
That is his M.O. It always has been and, with the backing of Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Chas Roemer, that’s the way it will be as long as this state is saddled with this albatross of a superintendent.
In short, nothing the man says can be trusted and the time is long past when we should be asking if this is the type person we want in charge of our state education system.
After all, if he will so easily lie about something as basic as pay raises for department employees, why should we expect the truth about school performance scores?
We made that request also and we were told the report is not available.
And it’s only been eight months.
Perhaps he needs time to cook the numbers to support his claims.
Which, of course, would be yet another lie.