By Steve Gunn
BATON ROUGE, La. – Voters in most Louisiana public school districts will decide Nov. 6 whether their school boards should be term-limited.
A ballot proposal in each district, if approved by voters, would limit board members to three four-year terms, beginning in Jan. 2014, according to the Times-Picayune. Current board members would start with a fresh slate and could still be elected to three consecutive terms.
Each school district will determine for itself whether to impose the limits. Two school districts, in the Jefferson and Lafayette parishes, already have term limits, so the proposal will not appear on the ballots that their voters will use.
The ballot proposal was introduced by Republican State Rep. Steve Pugh, who believes there is too much entrenched power in the hands of a handful of school board members in too many districts. He believes many people who would like to run for their local school board are intimidated by the presence of longtime incumbents with powerful connections who are difficult to beat.
“There are school board members who have been elected for 30 years,” Pugh told the newspaper. “It’s time to get some new blood and some new ideas as we address the children who are our future.”
Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, is critical of the proposal, saying term limits would inhibit the democratic process by eliminating candidates that voters may want to re-elect.
Monaghan also argued that replacing veteran board members with newcomers would allow school administrators to gain more power over the direction of school districts, because they would have more institutional knowledge than some of their bosses on the board.
We believe Monaghan (and probably many union leaders) hate the idea of term limits because they would threaten traditional union domination of many school boards.
Local teachers unions are well known for handpicking, endorsing and campaigning for board candidates who support union policies. And quite often the unions have the playing field to themselves, due to voter apathy and a lack of other candidates.
In short, union-supported candidates are sometimes the only candidates, and that’s fine for the unions. At contract time they get to negotiate with a bunch of political allies who owe their seats to the unions. Could there be an easier way for the unions to get everything they want and drain school coffers in the process?
We believe term limits on school boards might be healthy. More openings would invite more interest from candidates who do not tow the union line, and having more candidates with different views might attract more voters.
It’s time for a greater number of people in school districts to participate in the governing process, instead of allowing labor unions to dictate all decisions, and impose their self-serving agendas, through their puppet board members.
We’re willing to bet voters in a lot of Louisiana districts will say yes to this idea on Election Day.