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Sunday, October 26, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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Reform needed on state education boards

Last Modified: Monday, March 24, 2014 11:06 AM

State education boards are in need of reform and improvement, and the House Education Committee took a small step recently to shake up part of that system by approving a constitutional amendment that would strip the governor’s office of the blank check it has when appointing the members of Louisiana’s higher education boards.

House Bill 588, sponsored by committee Chairman Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, goes to the full House. H.B. 588 would clear the way for lawmakers to attach stipulations to some of the appointees at a later date.

It means the governor would have to pick board members that fit certain criteria spelled out by the Legislature.

Carter said the existing law gives the governor’s office too much leeway.

“I’m not saying the current process is bad, but boards deal with our kids, and boards deal with an awful lot of money,” Carter said. “I’m just trying to ensure that the people selected have a goal of where we want to go as a state and a vision to get us there.”

Carter also filed a so-called companion bill that would attach specific criteria for selecting board members. Committee members opted to defer House Bill 696 to be brought up at a later date.

That bill would have mandated that at least one member of each board:

Have at least five years’ experience as a chief executive at a large corporation.

Have five years’ experience as an executive in the public sector.

Hold a master’s in business administration.

Have earned a degree from the system they would be overseeing.

H.B. 696 also calls for one board member to be recommended jointly by two advocacy groups and one special interest group: the Council for a Better Louisiana, the Public Affairs Research Council and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

Legislators further wanted to add requirements that each board would include at least one former educator or lawyer before those arguments ultimately prompted the committee to defer the companion bill to be debated at a later date.

These are all excellent reforms that should be passed by the Legislature. They add a measure of expertise for board candidates rather than positions being filled by large campaign contributions to the governor.

On the original bill, Carter explained the governor has a wide-open field of candidates to pick, for appointees that set policy for the state Board of Regents and the LSU, Southern, University of Louisiana, and community and technical college systems.

Carter said his fear is legislators would keep piling on different requirements until a point was reached where it would be too hard to find anyone to serve.

If approved by two-thirds of the House and the Senate, H.B. 588 would then be placed on a statewide ballot to be decided by Louisiana’s voters.

This is one constitutional amendment that deserves support.

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