BESE stacked in Jindal's favor

by Leslie Turk

Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby's PAC, Alliance for Better Classrooms, enjoyed big wins in Saturday's BESE elections.

Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby's Political Action Committee, Alliance for Better Classrooms, enjoyed big wins in Saturday's BESE elections.

ABC, which advocates for public education reform in the state, pushing for the state to take over failing schools and urging more charter schools and voucher programs, funneled a significant amount of money and support into the campaigns of Board of Elementary and Secondary Education incumbent Republican Chas Roemer, who easily defeated Democrat Donald Songy; and Kira Orange Jones, who beat fellow Democrat and incumbent Louella Givens.

ABC also backed Democrat Carolyn Hill who beat independent Jim Guillory for an open seat on the state board.

The election of these three, all of whom are viewed as reform candidates likely to support Gov. Bobby Jindal's education agenda, is being viewed as a major blow to teacher unions and some school boards, who tend to favor more traditional public school policies.

Jindal had endorsed only Roemer in the runoff but issued congratulatory emails to all three Saturday.

"Congratulations to Chas a true leader in the education reform movement in Louisiana," Jindal wrote. "Chas knows that in order to reform our education system, we must put students first not adults. His experience will be critical to ensure that every child in Louisiana has the opportunity to succeed in the classroom."

Saturday's election also appears to make it likely that Jindal will win approval in January for his choice of superintendent to replace Paul Pastorek. The governor is pushing John White, the current head of the state-run Recovery School District, as Pastorek's replacement.

When he was re-elected in the primary, Jindal wasted no time saying the education initiatives he has been pushing since his first time will be at top of his list of priorities. The governor said he is focused on more choices for parents on where children can attend schools and expounding on teacher evaluations to link teacher rewards to improvements in student performance.

Read an earlier report on how BESE has been reshaped in favor of major education reform in the state here.