Nobody noticed? California pays six figures to its ‘superintendent of equity’ who lives, works in Philly

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The California Department of Education is facing questions over why it is paying a six figure salary to an individual who has been tasked with overseeing “equity” initiatives in the state’s schools despite his residing in Philadelphia which is over 2,500 miles away.

According to a report by Politico, Daniel Lee, who is described as a “psychologist, life coach and self-help author,” was hired to serve as California’s first superintendent of equity, a capacity that he has served in since last summer where he pulls down a salary of “up to $179,832” despite a resume that “shows no prior experience in California or relationships with school districts in the state.”

In addition to living in Philly, Lee “owns a Pennsylvania-based psychology firm and is the president of the New Jersey Psychological Association’s executive board,” according to Politico which also notes that “he voted in Philadelphia as recently as November and owns a home there, according to local records.”

The job was not posted publicly.

The curious decision to hire a non-resident to fill a key position wasn’t received warmly by many including Carl Pinkston, who serves as the director of the Sacramento’s Black Parallel School Board, who is quoted by Politico.

“There are a number of people in California very well qualified in our universities and educational institutions who could do this work,” he said.

Pinkston added, “Irrespective of who it is, to have someone from out of state who is not familiar with California’s dynamics and politics and challenges come in and attempt to do this work only furthers the fundamental problem, which is that the California Department of Education fails to adequately monitor schools for inequities and push for enforcement.”

The story also raised questions about cronyism, leading one Republican state lawmaker to call for a review of whether Lee’s employment is a violation of state law, noting that he attended the wedding of the state education official responsible for his hiring.

Tony Thurmond, who is California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction and has known Lee for over two decades stretching back to their days as Philadelphia social workers, defended the hiring by using COVID as an excuse, saying that his buddy was “somebody that I wanted to hire for a long time but he lived out of state,” Politico reported.

“The pandemic opened the door for me to hire someone who is top of his class,” Thurmond added.

The news was met with a ferocious response on Twitter as users reacted strongly.

Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy ripped the state, tweeting, “Kids are still catching up after losing nearly 2 years of in-person learning. Yet the Superintendent of Equity—one of the highest-paid CA Dept of Ed officials—is moonlighting off California taxpayers while living & working a different job in Philadelphia.”

Others weighed in.

For those who already believe that the proliferation of “equity” programs has been a massive grift, this story will do little to sway their opinions.

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Chris Donaldson

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