Rep. Nancy Landry calls on school board to keep an open mind

by Patrick Flanagan

State Rep. Nancy Landry has introduced several bills that could potentially impact the Lafayette Parish School Board, and in a letter submitted to the board last week, she explains her reasoning for the legislation.

[Editor's Note: Here's a letter from state Rep. Nancy Landry to the Lafayette Parish School Board, submitted before last week's special meeting called by School Board President Hunter Beasley to formally oppose her legislation concerning the school system. Landry, who was tied up with the legislative session in Baton Rouge and couldn't attend last week's meeting, had requested her letter be read aloud by the board, which ended up voting 7-1 to oppose her legislation. Since several board members admitted to not having read Landry's letter, and Beasley denied her request to read it before the board's vote, we've posted it in its entirety below.]

Rep. Nancy Landry

Dear President Beasley and Board Members:

Thank you for scheduling a special meeting to discuss House Bills 786, 593, and 980.

As the author of these bills it makes sense for you to incorporate my thoughts into any discussion the board has about this legislation. Because the board scheduled the special meeting during the legislative session, making it difficult for me to attend, I am providing this statement to be included in the discussion of the merits of the legislation.

HB 786, which has passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate, simply moves our school board elections to the same date as our other state elections (Governor, legislature, etc). The purpose of this bill is to improve turnout in school board races and increase voter awareness of issues facing our schools. Member terms for those elected in the fall of 2015 would be extended one year.

HB 593 is a Constitutional Amendment that requires a 2/3 vote of both houses of the legislature, and a vote of the people of Louisiana, where it must pass both within Lafayette Parish, and statewide. HB 980 is companion legislation to HB 593.

HB 593/980 is proposed legislation arising from my own personal experience growing up here as a product of the Lafayette Parish Public School System. I am also a mother of two boys educated in public schools here. One of my sons is in college. The other is a senior at Lafayette High.

In my time as a legislator, I have been keenly interested in issues surrounding the education of our children. In my view, the root of the problem is that so much of the educational system is focused on the role of government in managing the employment of adults. Our school system provides many jobs - for administrators, support personnel, and for teachers. These jobs are important. One unintended result of the situation, however, is that more time, energy and money is spent on the educational needs, concerns and interests of the children. In my view, this is one major impediment to improving the quality of education in Louisiana, and in communities across America.

HB 593/980 is an attempt to address this fundamental problem by opening a dialogue regarding options for school governance in Lafayette Parish. Passage of the bill itself does not change school governance in Lafayette Parish. The bill begins a process that, after several steps, could allow a vote on options to the present system.

Changing the governance of a school system is a serious matter. It requires serious dialogue and debate. That is why this bill has such a high bar, and several major hurdles to cross, before there would even be a final vote on any plan to change the system. I understand that some people are concerned about what steps might come out of this debate. I respect that. I sincerely believe, however, that this debate is critical and necessary. That's why I authored and will work hard to pass, HB593/980.

These bills simply create a structure for a dialogue that could lead to a commission that could lead to recommendations that, if approved by the local governments involved, could lead to a vote of the people to make some kind of change.

To support these bills is simply to say that you believe the issue is important enough for a formal, public dialogue.

Thank you for this opportunity to share my views on this important matter.


Nancy Landry