The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce’s recently formed political action committee, Empower PAC, is interviewing candidates for the Lafayette Parish School Board on Friday and Monday and will issue endorsements soon after. The PAC can also give each candidate it endorses up to a $1,000 campaign contribution.

Candidates, including incumbents, in districts 2, 4 and 5 are being interviewed by the PAC’s board and membership on Friday; candidates in districts 6,7 and 8 are scheduled for Monday. The incumbents in districts 1, 3 and 9 — Mark Babineaux, Shelton Cobb and Rae Trahan, respectively — are unopposed.

GLCC President and CEO Rob Guidry says all the candidates including the three unopposed board members were sent a questionnaire recently soliciting their responses to education issues. Babineaux, Cobb and Trahan did not return the questionnaire and it’s unclear whether they will participate in the Empower PAC interviews.

Guidry says the PAC is seeking candidates who support the chamber’s education agenda, which reflects in some respects state Superintendent Paul Pastorek’s reform agenda — an agenda that has drawn intense opposition from the Louisiana School Boards Association as well as some teachers’ associations.

“The issues that are most paramount are, we want to know, if elected, what are the views of the candidates on the role of a school board member relative to the superintendent,” Guidry explains. “We want to be sure they are of the philosophy that the school board is a policy-making body and the district superintendent should be involved in the hiring and firing of personnel. We also believe a school board member should possess a high school degree or the equivalent. We are concerned about how they would approach the achievement gap. And we’re interested in them speaking to the fact that they will be governing a school system that has a product, and that product is going to be used by the business community as a workforce.”

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