Tuesday, April 28, 2009

BESE flip-flops, endorses school board attacks

Little over a month ago, the EdLog headline read "BESE asserts independence, rejects legislative agenda."

It was a story that caused ripples in the political world, because the state's top school board - including all three members appointed by Gov. Bobby Jindal - voted against a package of bills largely seen as an attack on the authority of local school boards. The bills are heavily supported by Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek and the governor.

On Monday, BESE flip-flopped and voted to endorse the four bills by Rep. Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge). This time, the governor's appointees - John Bennett of Port Allen, Penny Dastugue of Mandeville and Tammie McDaniel of Oak Ridge fell into line behind the bills. They were joined by Glenny Lee Buquet of Houma, Jim Garvey of Mandeville and Chas Roemer of Baton Rouge (Roemer was the sole board member to endorse the package on the previous vote).

Opposing the bills were Dale Bayard of Lake Charles, Louella Givens of New Orleans, Keith Guice of Monroe, Linda Johnson of Plaquemines and Walter Lee of Shreveport.

The Louisiana Federation of Teachers opposes the package of bills because they intrude on local authority, place too much power in the hands of the superintendent of education, and could damage employee rights.

Here is the LFT view in a nutshell:

HB 851 would forbid school board members from "micromanaging" day-to-day school issues. That could limit teachers and school employees' ability to appeal disciplinary actions by administrators.

HB 664 would impose term limits on school board members. LFT believes that term limits should be local issues decided by voters, not imposed by the legislature.

HB 808 would limit school board member pay to a maximum of $200 per month, a reduction from the current $800. LFT believes this would mean that only the well-to-do could afford to run for school board seats.

HB 371 would strengthen anti-nepotism laws. LFT believes there are already sufficient safeguards against nepotism.

Advocate reporter Will Sentell covered the BESE meeting for this article.

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