Bobby Jindal’s feud with state education leadership flares up in meeting: ‘I wish I could grow money on trees’ _lowres

State Superintendent of Education John White; La. Gov. Bobby Jindal

The feud between the Louisiana Department of Education leadership and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration boiled over to Wednesday’s meeting of the Workforce Investment Council meeting.

During a discussion on programs and the governor’s proposed budget for the coming year, assistant superintendent Dave ‘Lefty’ Lefkowith noted deep cuts that the Jindal administration has recommended for the Education Department’s executive budget — heavily implying that the cuts are a response to the political battle between Jindal and Superintendent of Education John White.

“Let’s just be adults about this,” Lefkowith said.

Stafford Palmieri, Jindal’s chief of staff, denied that the cuts are politically motivated.

“All of the departments are taking cuts like that this year,” she shot back. “That’s just the reality of a $1.6 billion shortfall.”

“I wish I could grow money on trees, but I can’t,” she added, drawing laughter in the room, which had grown quiet in the back-and-forth.

White has said Jindal’s proposed budget would force him to lay off about 100 of the Department of Education’s roughly 300 employees. He has complained that the number shot up from 45 layoffs without warning just before the budget proposal’s release.

Jindal and White have been engaged in a battle for months over Common Core education standards and testing. The fight has spawned court fights and frequent dueling news conferences.