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Monday, May 29, 2017
Southwest Louisiana ,
Superintendent of Education John White has been a proponent of Common Core. (Associated Press)

Superintendent of Education John White has been a proponent of Common Core. (Associated Press)

La. education czar should be appointed

Last Modified: Monday, April 28, 2014 1:55 PM

House lawmakers’ rejection of a proposed constitutional amendment that called for the state superintendent to be elected reinforced the view that the position should remain an appointed one.

House Bill 125, by Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville, was rejected with a 56-41 House vote on Wednesday. It needed 70 votes to pass, meaning it came nearly 30 votes short.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has appointed superintendents since 1988. John White, the current superintendent, was appointed by BESE in a decision backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

While Harrison argued that voters should “be involved in the process” of choosing the state superintendent, opponents like BESE President Chas Roemer said it would be difficult to remove an unpopular superintendent, something BESE now has the power to do.

Another challenge would be figuring out how an elected superintendent and BESE, which has eight elected members, would work together. Which one would have authority over the other? Right now, the superintendent carries out the policies set by BESE.

The amendment could create more roadblocks in setting education policies, especially if BESE and the superintendent have opposing views. Reform measures like the Common Core state standards may have little chance of approval with an elected superintendent.

Another argument against the amendment is that local school districts do not elect their superintendent.

During last year’s session, Roemer said that Louisiana has outperformed 12 of the 13 states that elect school superintendents. Currently, 14 states elect their superintendents.

Harrison’s constitutional amendment didn’t get enough House support, but he still has another measure, House Bill 127, that is pending consideration in the House on Monday. It also requires a two-thirds vote, or 70 House votes, for approval.

A House committee also rejected legislation by Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, that called for 10 of the 11 BESE members to be elected. Three BESE members are appointed by the governor, with consent from the Senate.

Having an elected state superintendent would only create confusion among whether BESE or the superintendent has more authority in setting education policies, and it could pose challenges with reforming education measures within the state.

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