State doesn't have funds budgeted for new 'assistant commissioner' in education

It turns out the state education department does not have $139,000 in its budget to pay for the newly created “assistant commissioner,” a position to be filled by a lawyer and co-pastor from Washington, D.C. But the money will be found in other departments.

Niki Tshibaka’s job will be “funded through multiple state agencies through interagency receipts. We are currently working on determining those agencies,” an education department spokeswoman said.”

An “interagency receipt” is government lingo for siphoning money from other departments on the grounds that the job should be paid for out of the health budget, the public safety budget, etc.

It appears that this position was added to the hierarchy as part of a package hiring deal. Niki is the husband of Kelly Tshibaka, the new administration commissioner, a job that pays $141,000. Kelly is a former Alaskan with considerable federal government experience.

Kelly and Niki, both Harvard Law graduates, were co-pastors of The Lighthouse Fellowship, which is part of the Foursquare Church, a Christian movement founded by evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson in the 1920s.

A description on LinkedIn says Niki is an “independent religious institutions professional” and a “social entrepreneur.” He is the former senior pastor of the Mount Vernon Foursquare Church in Alexandria, Va. and was a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice from 2004-2007.

The listing also says he is co-founder and co-owner of BisaWorld, Ltd., “one of the first Ghanaian companies to attempt mass production of powdered chili peppers in compliance with Ghana’s regulatory standards, and currently is the only producer of powdered chili pepper in Ghana that is licensed by its Food and Drugs Authority.”

The state press release from the education department says Niki will “coordinate the efforts of multiple state departments to address safety and well-being issues. This work will include collaborating with students, school districts, tribes, community organizations, non-profits, and families to maximize educational opportunities.”

It is anyone’s guess what that means. Armed guards? Money for private schools? Better food for breakfast? More PE? Lessons on the power of positive thinking? Everyone from the school janitor to the education commissioner has a role in safety and well-being.

The creation of the new job is noteworthy because Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his staff say they plan to cut $1.6 billion from the state budget for the fiscal year that begins in July. To do that, Dunleavy has to get the Legislature to cut hundreds of millions in spending from education and hundreds of millions from health care. He hasn’t wanted to actually say any of this, preferring to talk about bigger Permanent Fund Dividend checks and other easy subjects.

The Legislature won’t cut $1.6 billion from the budget, but the governor has veto authority and he may be serious about eliminating services and cutting roughly 15,000 to 20,000 jobs across the state. (I’ve revised these figures upwards based on a report by the Institute of Social and Economic Research.)

That doesn’t explain why the state needs a new assistant commissioner.

Dermot Cole9 Comments