School & District Management

Louisiana Boards Feel Under Attack

By Erik W. Robelen — March 31, 2009 1 min read
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Louisiana state Superintendent Paul G. Pastorek continues to draw fire from local school board members for his efforts to limit their authority, tenure, and compensation.

The plan he has proposed “attacks the basis of local control by local school boards,” the Louisiana Association of School Boards bluntly declared in a resolution passed at its annual convention in March.

Some local boards have passed similar resolutions in opposition to the plan, which includes a measure to block local boards from intervening in decisions to hire and fire school personnel.

But Mr. Pastorek is hoping the legislature will take up the measure on hiring authority and other proposed changes to state law governing school boards during its session, which starts this month.

“It’s an old form of patronage that extends from the Huey Long era, and it’s time to let it go,” Mr. Pastorek said in an interview, alluding to the state’s powerful—and controversial—Depression-era governor and U.S. senator.

Mr. Pastorek’s plan, which included draft legislative language, failed to gain traction with the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education last month. The state body instead called for a task force to study the matter.

But last week, Rep. Stephen F. Carter, a Republican who serves on the House education committee, unveiled his own legislative plan, echoing some of the same ideas.

“Too many boards are getting too involved in the day-to-day operations” of schools, Rep. Carter said.

His plan would bar board members from interfering with personnel decisions by the local superintendent, such as hiring, firing, or transfers. It would require a supermajority of the board to hire or remove a superintendent. It also would impose limits of three consecutive terms on board members and maximum compensation of $200 per month.

Nolton J. Senegal, the executive director of the Louisiana Association of School Boards, argues that Mr. Pastorek and other supporters of the changes are “taking isolated incidents and blowing them out of proportion.”

A version of this article appeared in the April 01, 2009 edition of Education Week

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