|Photo by Robin May|
|Superintendent John White|
An investigation by The Nation follows the money and connects the dots in last year’s state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education elections. The campaigns generated 10 times more spending than the 2007 election as some powerful, wealthy, out-of-state education reform supporters including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars to select BESE candidates, ensuring that the board would be stacked in reformer-in-chief Gov. Bobby Jindal’s favor as he rammed sweeping changes to public education through earlier this year.
Much of the campaign cash, Nation writer Matthew Cunningham-Cook reports, was poured into BESE candidates supported by Jindal. Only one candidate opposed by Jindal, the outspoken Lottie Beebe, beat the odds. Six others backed by the out-of-state benefactors and related political action committees won their races, outspending their opponents to order of nearly 12-to-one. BESE is an 11-member board, so it’s now controlled by Jindalistas backed by this across-the-border largesse. And Jindal had a singular goal in mind, one shared by Bloomberg: getting John White approved by BESE as state superintendent. As Cunningham-Cook reports, that soon came to pass:
The new reform-minded board was sworn in on January 9, and two days later the BESE called a special meeting to confirm John White as state superintendent. It wasn’t long before the state’s political class, led by Governor Jindal, began discussing educational privatization on a scale incomparable to anywhere else in the nation, save for what happened in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.White, a champion of school reform and Teach for America alumnus who previously served as deputy chancellor of NYC public schools before a one-year stint as superintendent of the Recovery School District — in 2011, the year of his tenure, the RSD received a state score of D — has been a dutiful champion of Jindal’s ideological embrace of reforms that effectively dismantle public teacher unions and siphon millions of tax dollars away from the public school system and into private and charter schools.