Walter Pierce

Poll finds widespread support for school board reform

by Walter Pierce

A statewide poll commissioned by a pair of advocacy groups finds solid support among Louisiana residents for school board reform. The poll — commissioned by the Council for a Better Louisiana and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry — coincides with floor debate Tuesday in the state House of Representatives on House Bill 851 by Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge. HB 851 would bar school boards from participating in personnel decisions (hiring & firing) and would require a two-thirds majority board vote for the hiring and/or firing of a superintendent.

Overall, 95 percent of respondents believe public education in Louisiana must be improved; 56 percent say their local school boards get bogged down in trifling details which distract them from doing their job; and 76 percent believe board politics affect their superintendent’s ability to be effective.

When briefed on details in HB 851, 65 percent of poll respondents indicated their preference for their legislator to vote in favor of the bill.

“Clearly the public sees the need for and supports the school board reform ideas that have been put forward this legislative session,” say CABL President Barry Erwin. “They agree with the points we have been trying to make that too many school boards are distracted from focusing on job number one, which is improving student performance.”

Three companion bills pre-filed by Rep. Carter — reducing school board pay, instituting term limits, and clarifying nepotism laws — have either failed in committee or were pulled by Carter. House Bill 851 is the only remaining school board reform measure. The bill has been endorsed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, by chambers of commerce in most of Louisiana’s metropolitan areas, by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana , as well as by numerous newspapers.

Southern Media & Opinion Research conducted the telephone poll last weekend among 600 likely voters scattered across the state. The poll’s margin of error is plus/minus 4 percentage points.