In a classic Saturday Night Live sketch, comic Chris Farley portrayed a failed motivational speaker who now plies his trade from a van down by the river.
Superintendent of Education John White may have found Farley’s equal in a motivational speaker hired by the department to shill for the Course Choice Program.
“Lefty” Lefkowith is paid $145,000 a year to promote the governor’s “course choice” program, as seen in this YouTube video. Thanks to a public records request by blogger Tom Aswell, we know that Lefkowith’s title at the department is “Director of the Office of Portfolio,” although he claims to be Deputy Superintendent.
Since last July, Lefkowith has been, in the words of a Department of Education spokesperson, “effectively implementing a number of large, complex programs and activities aimed at benefiting Louisiana school children.”
In plain English, he was hired to make it easier for corporations and entrepreneurs to raid the public education budget and siphon funds away from our schools. He apparently has no education credentials, but “has worked with private sector companies and government agencies across the nation to harness the talent of professionals in diverse industries and develop creative solutions to improve results.”
In Superintendent White’s world, an academic background, appropriate credentials and experience as an educator are all disqualifying criteria for high-salary positions. Just ask the 27-year old director of teacher evaluation, who does not have a teaching certificate.
The Department of Education’s swank Claiborne Building is definitely not a van, but it is down by the river. That’s good enough for the superintendent.
UPDATE: Tom Aswell, Louisiana’s indispensable investigative journalist, lifted up a rock and found the creepy-crawly essence of “Lefty” Lefkowith in this blog entry. Not just a carnival barker for privatization, it seems that Lefty has an unsavory past “with strong connections to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the infamous Enron Corp.” and schemes to deregulate energy and manipulate water rights in the Sunshine State.