U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, according to outraged members of the Louisiana Association of Educators, has inserted himself into the debate over an interim replacement for former state schools Superintendent Paul Pastorek by personally calling at least two members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to lobby for the appointment of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s choice to fill the vacancy: John White, the 35-year-old newly hired head of the Recovery School District in New Orleans and a former vice chancellor of the public school system in New York City.

At least three of the 11 BESE members have opposed White’s appointment — eight votes are needed to approve such a move by the board — citing various reasons including White’s relative inexperience in education and concerns that he could not lead both the RSD and the state public school system simultaneously.

LAE President Joyce Haynes called Duncan’s presence in the issue “another example of political bullying” a directed the controversy back at Jindal: “Gov. Jindal continues to put undue pressure on BESE members in an attempt to force them to change their opinion and support Mr. White for the interim state superintendent and this needs to stop,” Haynes says in an LAE press release issued in response to Duncan’s calls.

 

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