THE BLOG

Louisiana Superintendent John White Now Chairs Jeb Bush's Seriously-Dwindling "Chiefs for Change"

03/11/2015 10:52 am ET | Updated May 10, 2015

2015-03-11-1426040333-8505909-jebbush.jpg

Louisiana Superintendent John White has just been made chair of Jeb Bush's privatizing-reform superintendent's club, Chiefs for Change.

Now, that reads really fancy, until one notices that Jeb's little club is, well, little.

Ouch.

Reminds me of dwindling PARCC- also once connected to Jeb Bush via his headquarter turf, the State of Florida.

But back to "failing" Chiefs for Change:

So, White is "leading" three other "chiefs": Rhode Island's Deborah Gist; Delaware's Mark Murphy, and New Mexico's Hannah Skandera.

It's not just the few that is unimpressive here. It's the who.

Let's start with Gist:

Deborah Gist is on her way out as RI state super and will land in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where her new appointment sparked a teacher protest. Even though Arne Duncan put his federal nose in RI business by trying to have Gist reappointed as state super, the RI state board allowed the deadline to pass for Gist's RI contract renewal.

And now, Skandera:

After four years of being allowed to operate as New Mexico's commissioner of education without officially being confirmed, on February 16, 2015, Hanna Skandera was confirmed by a NM Senate committee vote of 22-19, and not without noted reservation:

Critics [of Skandera's confirmation] , including Democratic lawmakers and teachers unions, blame Skandera for excessive testing, low teacher morale and a greater reliance on private educational firms -- including the publishing and assessment giant Pearson Education -- that has led to further privatization of public education in the state.

Democratic senators in opposition Monday argued that Skandera, who never worked as a teacher or principal, does not meet the criteria for the job set by the state constitution, which states that the secretary of the education department must be a "qualified experienced educator."

Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, told the assembly, "This appointment covers none of that."

Other opponents, including Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, questioned Skandera's trustworthiness. He said Skandera recently misled the Senate Finance Committee when she said a day of pilot testing for the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, system was not mandatory for districts when a promotional flyer for the event made it clear that it was.

"Pearson blows her whistle, and she marches," Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said of Skandera.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, said that a large teacher rally at the Capitol on Monday was evidence of a lack of support for Skandera among educators.

As it happens, Skandera has a long history connected to Jeb Bush that goes back to his time as governor in Florida: Zero teaching experience, but placed in a position of education leadership as deputy commissioner of education from 2005-07. Since that time, she has been faithful to promote Bush-style reform, including charter schools and A-F grading.

And despite her not being officially confirmed in NM for years, Skandera held the position as Chiefs for Change vice-chair by 2012- and then even chair from 2013 to 2015.

However, given Jeb Bush's presidential aspirations, Skandera might just be too stormy to be leading Bush's pet superintendents' club in 2015. Plus, her flaky, zero-teaching experience resume easily crumbles under scrutiny.

There's also that embarrassing plunge in Chiefs for Change membership from fall 2014 to winter 2015.

A fresh face is needed out front- and there are only two left to choose from.

It was either John White and Mark Murphy as the next "chief of chiefs" in Jeb's service, and, well, White has been particularly sly about adhering to the Jeb Bush Common Core agenda (even against Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal), and even to the point of rigging Louisiana's involvement in a "PARCC" of sorts, absent any contract directly between official PARCC vendor, Pearson, and the Louisiana Department of Education.

Just the kind of guy to lead the nationally-unpopular Gist and Skandera and nationally-vanilla Murphy.

However, Jeb needs to be careful of his new favorite son, White.

In 2012, when White was asked by American Enterprise Institute (AEI) reform pal Rick Hess concerning whom White considered to be a role model, White mentioned (now former) Indiana superintendent, Tony Bennett, whose charter grade massaging preceded his unexpected departure as Florida's commissioner of education- a post he landed in after losing in Indiana even with Jeb-Bush-assisted, election fundraising.

Just like Bennett, White is already known for getting caught in his emails. It just hasn't taken White out yet the way that it did Bennett.

Yet.

Originally posted 03-10-15 at deutsch29.wordpress.com

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who's Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.