What We Are Saying: Why Run for Elected Office if You Don’t Want to Govern?

Why run for elected office if you don’t want to govern?

That is the question we pose to the five incumbent members of the Orleans Parish School Board who are seeking re-election, but failed to support a bill by state Sen. Joe Bouie that would have removed the onerous and unfair burden of requiring the Board to have a two-thirds majority to overrule the school superintendent on charter school approvals and revocations.

John Brown, Sr., Ethan Ashley, Leslie Ellison, Nolan Marshall Jr. and Grisela Jackson, who was selected to fill the unexpired term of Ben Kleban, are all on the ballot today to hold on to their school board seats. Where you won’t find their names is on a letter of support of resolution in favor of SB 42, which would have returned the threshold for overruling the superintendent on school charters to a simple majority.

Sen. Bouie reached out to the board members in search of such support before he introduced the bill. No one answered the call, Bouie said in a radio interview Monday on WBOK 1230 AM, except for a reply he received from Board President Ethan Ashley, explaining why he would not be lending his support for the bill.

We to urge voters headed to the polls today that when it comes to school board races, it does not make sense to vote for individuals that are clearly NOT interested in governing.

Bouie’s SB 42 made it through the state Senate Education committee on Oct. 7 and passed the full Senate, with 33 yeas and 0 nays, on Oct. 12. However, it failed to get out of committee in the state House.

Meanwhile, most schools operating in Orleans Parish are C, D and F schools—schools that are failing our children. And if Supt. Henderson Lewis gives his stamp of approval to any of those failing operators, the very people elected by the voters of Orleans Parish would have to vote with a super-majority of five members to overrule his decision. There is no other school board in the entire state that must meet that standard.

About a dozen and half of the nearly 80 charter schools operating in Orleans Parish have earned an A or B in the most recent academic performance assessment by the state. The rest of the schools are either mediocre or outright failing with D and F assessments in the state’s performance rating system.

Here at The New Orleans Tribune, we have been screaming from the rafters for the better part of 15 years that the so-called reform that has gripped public education in Orleans Parish was a failure and a farce. We have been noting for years that most of the schools that serve OUR children were failing under this new model. We have been saying for years that the students, parents, voters, and taxpayers deserve true representation and local governance of schools. We will NOT get tired of telling that TRUTH!

Just so we are clear, the foundation for the arguments against Bouie’s bill come down to this: only requiring the school board to vote with a simple majority to revoke a charter would be too easy and put charter operators in jeopardy.

New flash! It should be easy to revoke charters of poor-performing school operators! The contracts of every operator running a school with a D or F grade should be revoked immediately, and the men and women elected by the people should be able to do it with the vote of four members of the board—not five.

Why is that the reformers and even current school board members seem more concerned about charter operators being in jeopardy than they are about putting the mostly poor, mostly Black students that are stuck in failing schools in jeopardy? If any of them were interested in governing the system and serving students, they would have supported Bouie’s SB 42. The fact that they didn’t is telling.

 “We have a serious issue that we are constantly exposing our children to failing schools,” Bouie said. “This is a governance issue. Taking their school board power and giving it to the Superintendent actually makes (the school board) null and void when it comes to making decisions about charters.”

Bouie was joined by bill co-sponsor state Rep. Jason Hughes on the radio showed that aired live Monday, Nov. 2. Both pointed to the efforts of charter school lobbyists as well some BESE members who spoke against the bill.

Of course, it is one thing to have charter schools and members of BESE, many of whose campaigns were heavily financed by the same forces that have pushed and funded the privatization of our public school system, fight against Bouie’s bill. That was to be expected.

But when elected members of the school board refuse to stand up for themselves and the people the elected them, something is truly awry. It makes us wonder whether these school board members recognize that they work for the children and residents of Orleans Parish—not the charter lobby or the corporate reformers.

Let’s remind them today!

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