Last Modified: Friday, November 16, 2012 5:42 PM
Southwest Louisiana voters were squarely in the mainstream on Election Day when they voted to impose term limits on parish school boards.
Here’s how overwhelming the results were for those who rightly voted, through local options on Nov. 6, to draw the line at three consecutive four-year terms for school board members: Calcasieu Parish, 81.7 percent in favor; Allen Parish, 74 percent; Beauregard, 82 percent; Cameron, 79 percent; Jefferson Davis, 75 percent; and Vernon, 78 percent.
Across Louisiana, voters in 67 districts voted for term limits for their school board members, a change that will take effect Jan. 1, 2014. The clock will start on current office holders after that date.
The vote was made possible by legislation by state Rep. Stephen Pugh, R-Ponchatoula, that enabled voters in each parish to decide the issue locally. Although there did not appear to be any statewide, public movement on term limits, voters everywhere made it plain that they wanted to draw the line on how long school board members could serve.
The vote made perfect sense as part of a continuing, statewide effort to reform public education. Some school board members in individual parishes held office for 20 or 30 years or more, discouraging new, interested candidates from running.
The problem was apparent; as much as long-serving board members might be appreciated for their service, local school boards need new people and new ideas to freshen the leadership and to sometimes change the direction for public schools. Sometimes, entrenched board members get too close to long-term school system leadership and become a rubber stamp for superintendents’ decisions. Those board members might favor the interests of longtime school board employees over those of children.
For example, in Calcasieu Parish many school board members are former school system employees or have spouses who are or have been employed by the schools. That might color how board members make decisions on pay or benefits for system employees.
R.L. Webb, Calcasieu board president, said he supported term limits as a way to get “younger people” and “fresh ideas” into the system. That viewpoint should be applauded; it was certainly upheld by voters.
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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.