Wednesday, November 9, 2011

BESE Run-off Elections

There are just a few days left for early voting for the BESE run-off elections occuring in Districts 2, 6, and 8. I urge all educators who live in these districts to vote now or on November 19 for one of the candidates recommended to us by the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education. Your involvement could prevent a takeover of this vital policy board by those who would privatize our public schools and deprofessionalize the teaching profession in Louisiana. The following is the press release by the Coalition which explains the reasons for their BESE endorsements:

Coalition for Louisiana Public Education

Endorsements Three in BESE Run-offs

Baton Rouge, LA – The Coalition for Louisiana Public Education has officially endorsed candidates for the three remaining seats on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) in the run-off elections for Saturday, Nov. 19th, according to Coalition Chairman Jack Loup.

Based on these candidates’ strong advocacy for public education and their overall experience with public education, the Coalition is endorsing Louella Givens, BESE District 2; Donald Songy, BESE District 6; and Dr. Jim Guillory, BESE District 8.

These three candidates are aligned with the core beliefs of the Coalition member organizations, and are deemed most likely to help transform all public school systems in the state. In the next few years BESE members will focus on how to raise the multi-year status quo of school performance scores in the Recovery School District (RSD), along with how to accelerate the current progress already being made in traditional public schools across the state.

Further, none of the candidates endorsed by the Coalition for the state’s highest education board have any potential conflicts of interest with serving on BESE.

“Coalition members have raised concerns about out-of-state political and business interests, including sizable national investments in our state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education races,” according to Loup. While the governor has three appointments, the remaining BESE members are elected by the people of Louisiana. Loup says, “We feel Louisianans are perfectly capable of selecting the right people, without outside interference, who will steer our education system and who can choose an excellent state superintendent from the many outstanding education professionals within our state, who best know Louisiana’s needs. We feel that Louisiana doesn’t need candidates who have recently moved here from, and are supported by, other states with problem school systems. Further, Louisiana doesn’t need out of state advice on candidates, or investment and profiteering on our own taxpayers and children.” 

Givens, in District 2, already has several years of experience on BESE, and is not backed by major out of state business and political interests. Her opponent, who moved here from New York City, is the head of Teach for America in New Orleans, which removes experienced, certified teachers from the

classrooms, and puts in their places college students, regardless of their major course of studies, for two-year periods.  There is further question as to whether it would be appropriate for her opponent to serve on BESE, given that she has financial ties to Teach for America, which BESE members may vote on.

Songy, in District 6, has a solid background in public education experience, having worked for years as a classroom teacher, principal, in personnel and as former superintendent of Ascension Parish. Songy supports public schools and teachers, and opposes the state seizure and privatization of public schools. Like Givens, Songy is also not supported by out of state business and political interests. Further, Songy believes that state resources should flow to the public school classrooms, rather than to out of state business concerns. In addition, Songy believes that the state Minimum Foundation Program should be fully funded in order to benefit all public school systems. To raise the quality of the profession even higher, Songy supports a fair, consistent evaluation of teachers.

Dr. Guillory has served as a school board member in Avoyelles Parish, and from his experience, he understands the needs of districts that include some of the most challenged urban and rural schools in the state. Like Givens and Songy, Guillory is not supported by out of state business and political interests. Because of his first-hand public education background, strong support for Louisiana public schools, and because he has no ties to big businesses from out of state, the Coalition believes “Dr. Jim” is the best candidate for BESE District 8.

Contrary to descriptions that the Coalition is a group of “teacher unions and school board members,” the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education is actually comprised of the state leaders of Louisiana’s major public education stakeholders: the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA); LA Association of School Superintendents (LASS); LA Association of School Executives (LASE); the LA Association of Special Education Administrators (LASEA); the LA Association of Chief Technology Officers; the LA Association of Child Welfare and Attendance Professionals (LACWAP); the LA Association of School Personnel Administrators (LSASPA); the LA Retired Teachers Association (LRTA); state director of National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS); LA Computer Using Educators (LACUE); LA Association of Educators (LAE): and the LA Federation of Teachers (LFT). In addition, the Coalition includes state representatives of Save Our Schools and Parents Across America; and a bank of independent researchers specializing in education data analysis.

More information about the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education is available on Facebook:

For further information on the Coalition, contact Chairman Jack Loup, current president of the St. Tammany Parish School Board, at or 985-796-3771.