|Rep. Nancy Landry|
Despite opposition from a strange cast of locals, a bill by state Rep. Nancy Landry to put Lafayette Parish School Board elections in line with gubernatorial elections could very well become reality after passing through the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
The committee voted 5-1 in favor of Landry’s H.B. 786, which gives the bill clearance for a full vote of the senate expected sometime next week.
Landry’s bill would essentially change the cycle of school board elections to coincide with the gubernatorial election cycle, which traditionally carries a higher voter turnout.
According to voter turnout data, gubernatorial elections have brought in anywhere from 20 percent to about 15 percent more voters than school board elections.
If Landry’s bill passes, those board members elected in November will serve a five-year term to catch up with the next election for governor in 2020.
According to a March 2014 study conducted by Arnold F. Shober and Michael T. Hartney, school systems that elect board members during higher turnout cycles actually post higher student performance numbers. “Merely holding elections at the same time as state- or national-level elections is associated with a student proficiency rate about 2.4 points higher than a comparable district that has off-cycle elections,” the study notes.
What’s odd about Landry’s bill, or rather the reaction to it, is the cast of former and current school system officials who turned out in opposition of the legislation.
Those individuals, according to opposition letters filed during Wednesday’s committee vote, included school board president Hunter Beasley, former educator Nancy Mounce and her husband Doug Cochrane, former longtime school board member Mike Hefner, and Ann Burruss of Power of Public Education Lafayette. Also in attendance Wednesday to voice their opposition were school board members Greg Awbrey and Rae Trahan. It’s also worth noting that former Superintendent Burnell Lemoine and former Human Resources Director Lawrence Lilly also showed up to oppose some of Landry’s other school system related bills this session, raising an important question: What’s their dog in the fight?
According to the Advocate, Awbrey and Trahan’s opposition Wednesday centered on the fact that Landry didn’t advise the board of her bill during a legislative breakfast with school board members held earlier this year.
But here’s the funny part, according to attendance records from that meeting, neither Awbrey nor Trahan were present during the breakfast.
“I just don’t know why they wouldn’t want to be elected in elections when the most families turn out,” says Landry. “That just doesn’t make sense. There’s this whole group of people out there that really don’t want to talk about these issues, and the children are the one’s suffering while our school board is completely dysfunctional.”