BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana’s education superintendent received another positive job evaluation Wednesday from the state’s top public school board, which didn’t publicly address criticism that the schools chief isn’t legally in the job.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, known as BESE, reviewed John White’s performance in a four-hour, closed-door session. After it was over, no document was released and no public discussion of the evaluation was held.
White announced he received an evaluation of 3 on a 4-point scale, what he described as an “effective: proficient rating.” The rating had dropped slightly from 3.2 a year earlier.
In posts on Twitter, White said the board gave him strong marks for improved student performance in literacy, the ACT college readiness test, graduation rates and the earning of early college credits and industry-based credentials. He said a “significant weakness” involved performance of students who don’t speak English as a first language.
Louisiana’s education superintendent oversees policy decisions that affect more than 700,000 public school students. BESE chooses the superintendent, a decision that requires a two-thirds vote of the 11-member board.
Gov. John Bel Edwards and other critics suggest White is in the job illegally, saying he needed reconfirmation from the Louisiana Senate to stay in the position this term, which didn’t happen. Edwards and his education union allies have been critical of White’s support for state-paid vouchers to private schools and his backing of charter school expansions.
But the Democratic governor can’t oust the superintendent directly.
White, who is paid a $275,000 annual salary, was hired in January 2012, under a prior state school board term. In the new term, his opponents lack the eight board votes needed to fire him, while White’s supporters don’t have the eight votes for a new contract with him.
He’s been working on a month-to-month basis since the term began in January 2016, under the contract enacted during the previous board’s term. White has said he will continue to serve until BESE no longer wants him for the job. White’s supporters say that since he wasn’t reappointed but continued under previous contract terms, Senate confirmation isn’t required.
More than a dozen residents filed a lawsuit alleging White’s reconfirmation was needed, but a judge dismissed that lawsuit, saying only a few elected officials - including the governor - have the legal ability to file such a petition. Edwards has said he’s considering a lawsuit.
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