By Devon Sanders, LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE — The Senate Education Committee on Thursday refused to approve a bill that would have forced Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White out of office.
The proposed bill was authored by John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, who has been a part of previous efforts to get White out of office.
Present law states that the superintendent is appointed by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and serves for the duration of the board’s term.
The BESE board is re-elected every four years, and a two-thirds vote is required for the board to approve the superintendent’s seat. Once approved by BESE, the Louisiana Senate must confirm the superintendent’s appointment.
White was appointed by BESE in January 2012. He did not receive the eight votes he would needed in 2016 in favor of reappointment. But since there also have not been enough votes on the board to dismiss him, that resulted in his being shifted to a month-to-month contract.
Milkovich’s bill added that the superintendent may not serve beyond the second regular session after the board that appointed him left office, unless reappointed by the Senate. If the Senate chose not to reappoint the superintendent, then the seat would become vacant.
Keith Leger, the Director of Education Policy and Governmental Affairs for the Council for a Better Louisiana, opposed the bill and pointed out that if it passed, the state could have no acting superintendent for up to four years.
White is a strong advocate for Common Core standards, benchmarks that set educational goals and curriculum, which he brought to the state in 2015.
Milkovich has said he feels Common Core is “academically corrupt, spiritually bankrupt and an attack on the values of Western Civilization and Christianity.” He contends that Common Core pushes an atheist agenda.
In discussing a second bill at Thursday hearing, Milkovich claimed that White was initially elected as superintendent due to out-of-state billionaires funneling money into the 2011 BESE elections.
“John White got elected after the 2011 BESE Board Elections,” Milkovich argued. “And what happened in the 2011 BESE board elections? Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City and other out of state billionaires dumped over $2 million into Louisiana BESE board elections. So basically, our BESE board elections were bought and paid for by out-of-state billionaires. And do you know what the number one criteria was to get elected to the BESE board? That they would support John White.”
Lawsuits were filed to challenge White’s seat in 2017 and 2018. Judges rejected both suits, saying that the only people who could challenge White’s current seat were Gov. John Bel Edwards; Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego; Attorney General Jeff Landry; and East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III.
Milkovich also proposed an amendment to his fill that would have allowed anyone to challenge White’s employment.
Though Milkovich objected, the rest of the committee members voted to defer the bill.