John White

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John Charles White

Louisiana Superintendent of Education
In office
January 2012 – March 13, 2020
Preceded by Ollie Tyler (interim)
Succeeded by Preston Cade Brumley

Born November 12, 1975
Washington, D.C.
Political party Independent voter
Residence Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Alma mater St. Albans School

University of Virginia
New York University

Occupation Educational administrator

John Charles White (born November 12, 1975)[1] is the former Louisiana state superintendent of education. A political Independent, White was appointed to the position in January 2012 by Republican then Governor Bobby Jindal, with the goal of improving state schools and educational performance ratings. During White's eight years in office from 2012 to 2020, the state had 700,000 public school pupils and 50,000 teachers.[2]


White was born at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., and reared in the capital city, the son of a lawyer-father and a television journalist-mother, whose names are unavailable.. He has one younger brother and his only sibling, an officer in the United States Navy, name unavailable. In his youth, White considered becoming a Navy officer.[3] He graduated in 1994 from the exclusive St. Albans School in the nation's capital.[4][5]

White then received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, Virginia. He later received a master's degree in public administration from New York University.[6] He attended Eli Broad's Superintendent's Academy, based in Oakland, California, which produces school leaders who gain their credentials after ten weekends of instruction over a one-year period. White completed the program in 2010.[7]

As of 2014, White was not certified as a teacher, principal, or superintendent in Louisiana.[8]

Educational and political career

Teach for America

After his graduation from the University of Virginia, White signed up with the non-profit organization, Teach For America, headquartered in New York City which places high-achieving recent college graduates and professionals to teach for at least two years in low-income communities.[9] TFA sent White to teach English for three years at the large William L. Dickinson High School in Jersey City, New Jersey. He was thereafter an educational administrator in Chicago, Illinois, where he met the former United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.[3] In 2006, White joined the leadership team of then chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, Joel Klein, who managed the largest school district in the nation from 2002 to 2010. As deputy chancellor, White led the attempt to revive more than one hundred failing schools and to establish new charter schools. In this position, he also was a negotiator with the United Federation of Teachers.[6]

The move to Louisiana

In May 2011, Jindal named White to head the Recovery School District in New Orleans, a state agency created in 2003 to supervise those public schools declared failures based on recurring poor pupil performance over a four-year period. White reorganized the RSD central office and included neighborhood groups in the decision-making process. White pushed through a $2 billion school rebuilding plan designed to benefit from new or renovated campuses.[2]

A few months later, Jindal named White as the state superintendent of education, an appointment which requires approval of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, an elected and appointed body that sets state educational policies. Confirmation was assured by a nine-to-one vote, with one dissenter, Lottie Polozola Beebe, a conservative Republican since defeated in 2016 in her bid for reelection to the board. Beebe is also the school superintendent in St. Martin Parish in south Louisiana. According to Beebe, a critic of Jindal's educational policies, "Credentials and experience do matter. The governor's nominee [White] lacks a great deal of both in my opinion."[10] During the roll-call vote on White's appointment, Beebe said "emphatic 'No.'" Other board members spoke highly of White and cited his "ability to bring disparate groups together and his track record around the country."[10]

White's appointment was endorsed by U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, a Democrat and former Chicago superintendent, who described him as "a visionary leader who has done great things in New York City and New Orleans ... and will do the same for the whole state of Louisiana."[11] The Louisiana Association of Educators, a teachers' union, voiced objections to White's appointment, having called for a broader search for qualified candidates. LAE president Joyce Haynes said that White's support for additional charter schools, the institution of educational vouchers, and a revised teacher evaluation model are troubling to many educators.[11]

White was paid $275,000 annually. He succeeded the interim superintendent, Ollie Tyler, an African-American who later was elected mayor of Shreveport, who was acting superintendent from May 2011, when the previous appointed superintendent, Paul Pastorek, resigned, until White assumed duties in January 2012.[10] White also has a $75,000-per-year press secretary.[12] Tyler was subsequently elected in 2014 as the first black woman mayor of Shreveport.

Superintendent White unveiled the "Louisiana Believes" program, which proposed to place each child on a path to college and career.[6] He announced $5 million in federal "Believe and Succeed" professional development funds to train educators on the proper methods to reverse failing schools. The grants cover a year of advanced training for new school leaders.[13] In 2013, White took steps to bring Louisiana within the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a five-year program commitment. Critics of the national curriculum claim that insufficient time has been given for teachers to prepare for the new approach. Some oppose a national curriculum and prefer that educational administration be left to the individual states or the school districts.[14] When Governor Jindal questioned whether Common Core should go forward in Louisiana, White stood by his position and downplayed any differences that he may have with Jindal.[15] In June 2014, White called upon Jindal not to engage in any last-minute retreat which he claimed would create confusion among teachers, pupils, and parents. Speaking to a teachers' conference in Baton Rouge, White said: "You deserve clarity, you deserve a long-term plan, you deserve not to have standards and curriculum and assessments tossed about in the morning headlines like they can be changed with the waving of a magic wand."[16]

In May 2013, White admitted that that letter grades awarded to high schools in the past had been inflated by as much as 7.5 percent. However, he repudiated claims that his office was responsible for the misleading information. White told a state Senate committee that the problem had resulted from a flaw in the grading formula, with letter grades based on end-of-course examination scores. White said that a different formula has been implemented to correct the problem.[17]

White's tenure has aroused questioning from the radio talk show host Moon Griffon, who broadcasted statewide from a studio in, first, Monroe and now Lafayette. Griffon announced in October 2013, that he is "investigating" White to determine more about his background, political thinking, and credentials in education. "Who is John White?", Griffon asked.[18]

In July 2014, questions arose about White's acceptance of reimbursement for expenses accrued while he attended various functions sponsored by organizations holding state contracts, including Teach for America. White said that he usually pays such expenses and then files for reimbursement from the state. The organizations then pay the state. He filed two such statements with the Board of Ethics for travel and lodging in the first half of 2014 and thirteen requests in 2013.[19]

Later tenure as superintendent

Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards was unable to remove White as superintendent because the final decision rests with BESE. That board has no working majority either to retain White on a long-term contract or to dismiss him. White hence remains superintendent without the affirmation vote of BESE.[20]

In 2017, the liberal Huffington Post reported that White claimed five years of teaching experience in English, rather than the three he actually has from New Jersey though in the first year in that state he was not certified. White sought the "Ed Leader 3" certification, which requires five years of teaching experience in the same field. He hold no Illinois certificate and never taught in a public school there but instead worked in Chicago for Teach For America. Nevertheless, the state certification specialist, Regina Marie Lewis Poole (born 1959) of Zachary in East Baton Rouige Parish,[21] approved White's "Ed Leader 3" certification and hence affirmed that White meets the five years of teaching experience in his field.[22]

In 2018, White called for an immediate pay increase for state teachers. Compensation for educators in Louisiana is $9,000 below the annual national average of $58,000. Though the state reached the regional average in teacher pay in 2007, it has since fallen below that benchmark.[23]

White is an advocate for the Louisiana "Believe and Prepare" program, which began as a pilot in 2014. It established a competency-based program and calls for teacher candidates to have a full year of practice teaching under a mentor. In July 2018, "Believe and Prepare" was expanded to all teacher preparation programs in the state. White extolled the program in a joint hearing of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education and the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment. The hearing was presided over by State Representative Nancy Landry, the chairman of the House Education Committee, the day before she resigned from the House to become the chief of staff to Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin.[24]

White is also an advocate of expanded school choice, which he said "has a moral dimension and a practical dimension. The moral dimension is that affording rights to the privileged and not to the underprivileged is anti-American and wrong. And the practical dimension is, in a world where there are not enough good schools, why would we take off the table the ability of someone to attend a good school?”[25]

In January 2020, White announced his intention to resign as superintendent in mid-March. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education established a four-member panel to nominate candidates for superintendent, set minimum qualifications, and to establish the process to fill the position.[26] White's successor is Preston Cade Brumley (born March 5, 1981), a Republican and the former superintendent in his native DeSoto Parish and thereafter in suburban Jefferson Parish.[27]


  1. John C. White of Baton Rouge. Retrieved on June 4, 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 John White's appointment as Louisiana education superintendent assures continuity for reforms: An editorial, January 13, 2012. The New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved on October 21, 2013.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Peter Meyer, The New Superintendent of Schools for New Orleans, Fall 2011. Retrieved on October 21, 2013.
  4. View: Louisiana is smart to have these school fights, September 13, 2013. Alexandria Town Talk. Retrieved on October 21, 2013.
  5. STA Alum John White '94 Named Louisiana's New Superintendent of Schools, January 2012. Retrieved on October 21, 2013.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 John White Bio. Retrieved on October 21, 2013.
  7. Broad Superintendent's Academy. Retrieved on October 21, 2013.
  8. Verify Certificate. Retrieved on June 4, 2014.
  9. Garrett Tenney (January 10, 2010). Obama pal Bill Ayers calls Teach For America 'a fraud'. Fox News. Retrieved on March 29, 2013.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Andrew Vanacore, State board of education votes overwhelmingly for John White as next state superintendent, January 11, 2013. The New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved on October 21, 2013.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Sean Cavanaugh (January 11, 2012). John White Appointed Chief of Louisiana Schools. Education Week. Retrieved on October 21, 2013.
  12. Lamar White, Jr., Louisiana Superintendent John White Continues to Shield Records on Voucher Program; Hires High-Priced PR Consultant to Lead Communications. Retrieved on October 21, 2013.
  13. State to use $5M to turn around failing schools, March 14, 2013. WBRZ-TV (Baton Rouge). Retrieved on October 21, 2013.
  14. Sarah Tan, Common Core is here to stay, state education board says, October 16, 2013. New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved on October 21, 2013.
  15. Barbara Leader, John White stands behind Core, downplays rift with Gov. Bobby Jindal. 'The Shreveport Times (April 25, 2014). Retrieved on April 26, 2014.
  16. Andrew Canacore. "John White swipes at Gov. Jindal over Common Core". The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on June 4, 2014.
  17. Zach Correa, Education officials clear up grading questions, May 30, 2013. WBRZ-TV. Retrieved on September 21, 2013.
  18. The Moon Griffon Show, October 17–18, 2013.
  19. Mike Hasten, "Some always have been suspicious of White", Monroe News Star, July 27, 2014.
  20. Julia O'Donoghue (January 8, 2016). John Bel Edwards has said he wants to replace school chief John White, but it's not clear he can. The New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved on March 13, 2018.
  21. Regina L. Poole.
  22. Mercedes Schneider (April 17, 2017). La. Supt. Fabricates Three Years of Teaching into Five to Garner Questionable Certification. Huffington Post. Retrieved on March `13, 2018.
  23. Will Sentell (August 16, 2018). Louisiana's John White: Increase in pay for teachers has to happen now. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on August 19, 2018.
  24. Leigh Guidry (July 18, 2019). Are mentorship and better prep the answer to teacher turnover?. The Alexandria Town Talk. Retrieved on July 19, 2019.
  25. Mike McShane (March 13, 2020). John White Steps Down: Let’s Revisit An Old Speech Of His. Retrieved on March 14, 2020.
  26. Melinda Deslatte (January 16, 2020). Louisiana education board kicks off superintendent search. Minden Press-Herald. Retrieved on January 17, 2020.
  27. Preston Brumley. Retrieved on May 26, 2020.