The news just keeps getting worse for Superintendent of Education John White.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has put White on a short leash with Executive Order BJ 2014-7 on June 18 and last Wednesday (June 25) Internal Audit Administrator Marsha Guidry issued an extensive laundry list of documents information relating to the Department of Education’s (DOE) contract with Data Recognition Corp.
At the same time, LouisianaVoice has learned the Legislative Auditor’s office is conducting an investigation of DOE that could involve payroll fraud, according to sources inside the department.
White, as we have reported several times in the past, has loaded up the department with unclassified appointments at bloated six-figure salaries.
There are apparently three major problems with that:
- Many of these appointees seldom, if ever, show up for work and apparently are required to perform few, if any, duties to earn their keep;
- The department did not have enough money in its budget to pay their salaries so they are reportedly being paid from federal funds earmarked for specific purposes;
- The appointees are not assigned to areas for which the federal funds are allocated.
If true, these are serious allegations and even more serious violations that could prompt a federal probe in addition to the investigation already underway by the Legislative Auditor.
Of course, no one really knows who works where at DOE because no one has ever managed to obtain an organization chart for the department.
Oh, the Legislative Auditor, among others, has tried but with each request over the past couple of years now, the response has always been that the department is “undergoing reorganization.”
So, no organization chart and no determination of who works where in DOE.
And now, on top of that sticky wicket, up crops the controversy over Common Core and the testing by Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC).
Short version: Jindal, White and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) back Common Core and legislation is introduced for state implementation of Common Core.
But then, somewhere along Jindal’s way to the White House, someone whispered in his ear that path of least resistance to the Oval Office would be for him to oppose Common Core on grounds that he didn’t want the big bad old federal government dictating how we teach our kids in Louisiana. He may even have waved a little American flag when he said it.
But White and BESE continue to back Common Core and the legislature passes it.
Jindal vetoed it but White and BESE said they were going ahead with it, and Jindal jumped onto his Nautilus Nitro Plus workout station to prepare for battle. He announced he was canceling the contract for the testing because, he said, DOE had issued the contract without taking competitive bids.
And now, the Office of Contractual Review (OCR) is reviewing the contracts.
Meanwhile, Guidry sent this letter to White:
Executive Order BJ 2014-7, issued June 18, 2014, directed the Division of Administration (DOA) “to conduct a comprehensive accounting of all Louisiana expenditures and resources related to PARCC.” Pursuant to the Executive Order (EO) and the auditing authority of DOA over consulting contracts, I have been asked by the Commissioner to collect and review certain information. Please provide the following information to carry out the EO to ensure DOE is complying with Louisiana law.
Please identify and provide documentation for the following:
1. All documentation related to contracts with DRC or other testing or academic assessment tools, including both paid and outstanding invoices.
2. Please provide an accounting of the cost of the PARCC Technology Readiness Tool survey, the method and documentation related to the procurement of this survey, and documentation of the funds used to pay for it, including all receipts and accounting paperwork.
a. Please provide information related to the price of PARCC assessments as a total cost to the State of Louisiana and as an individual cost of each assessment to be provided in the State of Louisiana. This should include: any cost information related to an increase or decrease in cost as a function of the number of states withdrawing from PARCC or other reasons.
3. Please provide documentation related to negotiations on the price of any new assessment tool(s) including any negotiations or communications related to the cost of individual assessments, the total cost to the State of Louisiana of new assessments, or any breakdown of the cost negotiated or discussed by or with DOE. This should include communications conducted in writing (emails, letters, and memos) as well as any meeting minutes and calendar entries.
a. Please also provide documentation of how DOE’s negotiations met the statutory requirement for the lowest-cost bidder, for a competitive procurement process, and the statutory authority of DOE to conduct such negotiations.
4. Please provide evidence of DOE’s process to ensure during any Request for Proposal (RFP) conducted by PARCC or by a member state on behalf of PARCC that such RFP was a fair, competitive, price-sensitive proposal and was conducted using a fair, transparent process in accordance with Louisiana revised statutes. Please provide all files relative to these procurements.
5. Please provide evidence that John White affirmed in writing to the Governing Board Chair of PARCC the State’s continued commitment to participation in the Consortium and to the binding commitments made by John White’s predecessor as Chief State School Officer as required by the Memorandum of Understanding establishing the PARCC Consortium.
In addition to providing the above documentation, please provide a written response to each of the following questions:
a. What contracts or other agreements are in place or in negotiation for the purchase of an assessment? Please provide a list of these along with copies of all related documentation.
b. What steps have been taken by DOE to procure any Common Core aligned assessment product?
c. What steps have been taken by PARCC to procure any Common Core aligned assessment product?
Please provide these items by June 30, 2014. I may identify other documents or information necessary to complete this review and request your cooperation pursuant to the Executive Order. Please identify any additional individuals within DOE who will be available to respond to any questions I may have during the course of the review.
The documentation requested should be delivered to the Office of the Commissioner to my attention at 1201 N. Third Street, Baton Rouge, LA, 70802, Suite 7-210, on the 7th floor of the Claiborne Building.
You will note that White was given until today (Monday, June 30) to provide the information.
The problem with the governor’s request, as LouisianaVoice, Crazy Crawfish and others have learned, is that Jindal may not have followed proper procedure in seeking the information.
You see, when we ask for information, we are required to ask for specific documents, not simply information.
In fact, both DOE and the Division of Administration (DOA) have in the past simply refused to comply with our requests with the stock response that we requested information as opposed to specific records and therefore, both DOE and DOA felt comfortable informing us (somewhat condescendingly, we might add) that they were not required under the state public records act to respond.
Now if White only had the stones to tell DOA and Jindal that, we might yet have that epic Niles-Sheldon grudge match on Pay per View.