Walter Pierce

School board reform bill clears panel

by Walter Pierce

On Tuesday afternoon at the state Capitol, the House Education Committee voted in favor of House Bill 851, a measure that, if passed into law, would yank school board members out of personnel decisions. The bill by state Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, prohibits school board members from participating in hiring and firing decisions, leaving those calls instead to the superintendent.

It is one of four school board reform bills filed this session by Carter and championed by good government groups like the Public Affairs Research Council and the Council for a Better Louisiana. Two of the bills have already failed; HB 664 establishing term limits was killed in the Education Committee; HB 371 defining nepotism laws for school boards was pulled by Carter. The fourth bill, HB 808, establishing a $200-per-month cap on board member pay, was set to be considered today as well, but was rescheduled after debate over 851 took three and a half hours. The lengthy consideration over 851 also delayed debate on Lafayette Rep. Rickey Hardy’s bill to require a 2.0 grade point average for extracurricular activities including sports at the high school level.

Hardy, meanwhile, was one of 10 lawmakers to vote in favor of 851. Six members of the Education Committee voted against it. Speaking in favor of the bill today before the committee were longtime Lafayette public-education advocate Greg Davis and former Lafayette school Superintendent James Easton; Dale Bayard, representative of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s 7th District (which includes Lafayette), spoke in opposition to 851. The bill now moves to the full House for debate.