Our View: School board vote expected to top polls

In fewer than five months, voters across the nation will participate in general elections. In Louisiana, one issue on the Nov. 6 ballot is expected to draw more local passion than the anticipated presidential race.

This election season, Bayou State voters are being offered an opportunity to impose term limits on public school board members in their respective parishes. Presently, only Jefferson and Lafayette parishes exercise that rule.

The concept of term limits for school board members is expected to draw strong emotion, particularly among current office holders – some have held seats for more than two decades – who frequently demonstrate an attitude that their positions include possessing a right to politically protect rather than being about the privilege to serve.

Those that oppose term limits argue that voters have an opportunity to remove any elected official from office anytime ballots are cast. The ones most vehemently defending that position are generally current office holders.

Statistics show that incumbents are re-elected between 94 and 96 percent of the time. Most voters unfamiliar with candidates select incumbents simply because they are already in office.

An informal survey found that in the case of school board members, most individuals asked, including parents of students, could not name who is in office to represent their children.

In the Tri-parish region it is noted that the three schools districts post student performance at basically the same academic level. However, the number of students represented by individual school board members, regardless of how long they have been in office or by their numbers, makes little difference regarding accomplishment.

The Lafourche Parish School Board has 15 members individually representing approximately 957 students based on the 2011-2012 school year enrollment of 14,356 pupils.

Eleven school board members individually represent 858 students from the total 9,439 in the St. Mary Parish School District.

The Terrebonne Parish School Board’s nine members average representing 2,065 students for that district’s enrollment of 18,589 students.

Attend a few school board meetings and tabulate the level of discussion involved when agenda items pertain to protecting board member positions – such as the number of members the board requires or the territory size for each member – in comparison to the lack of discussion given on actually educating students.

We encourage voters to research the performance records of their respective school board members, their positions on issues and how long they have been in office. Then decide based on performance alone if those persons deserve to last as long as possible or require term limits.