Education is the most important decision on Nov. 6 ballot
by ALLISON CRYER
In November, voters in Jeff Davis Parish will be asked to make many decisions, including who will lead our country for the next four years as president, as well as the right to bear arms. But the most important decision voters here must make will be the decision of whether or not to limit the terms of the school board members in our district.
School board members make up the largest body of elected officials in the United States. We entrust them to set the policies of our most treasured institutions. School districts are also often the largest employers in a community and the decisions they make reach far, affecting jobs, resources and most importantly, the education of all children.
In June, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed House Bill 292 by Dist. 73 State Rep. Stephen E. Pugh (R-Pontchatoula) which allows voters in all school districts except Jefferson and Lafayette parishes, who already have the term limits, to decide Nov. 6 if they want to impose a three-term limit on board members starting with the terms that begin in January 2014. The legislation gives voters the right to choose whether to impose the same limits that are already set for lawmakers and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members.
According to the author of the bill, the three terms reflect the “educational lifespan of a student.” Also, many superintendents of schools have come out in support of limiting school board members to 12 consecutive years in office, that the school system needs a shake-up, and that change is necessary to improve education in Louisiana.
Other supporters include the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Blueprint Louisiana and the Council for a Better Louisiana, who all came out in support of the measure, arguing it would prevent stagnation and the consolidation of power by board members.
Studies have shown that overwhelmingly, voters prefer term limits. Enacting term limits downgrades seniority and increases competition, encouraging new challengers.
Bringing in new blood can introduce fresh thinking, new ideas, and eliminate any “old bulls.” Limiting terms would eliminate the mentality that things should be done a certain way because “this is the way we’ve always done it.”
Also, enacting term limits has been shown to encourage greater voter participation in elections, and a more invested electorate. Term limits could bring a fresh crop of new challengers and issues, which will make voter participation in elections surge to new heights.
On the other hand, the president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers argued that the move was unnecessary and would lead to the loss of good, experienced elected officials, terminating the good elected members along with the bad.
Another argument against enacting term limits is that the limits reduce range of voter choice. What happens if popular and effective candidates cannot run because they have reached their 12-year limit, but the public still wants them to serve?
Also, many smaller districts may not have a large enough pool of candidates to take the chance of eliminating successful school board members. Why not let the voters be the ones to decide if a candidate is not doing his or her job effectively?
Others opponents of school board term limits say there is already a local option for the public to impose a one-term limit on any elected official – the ability to vote against them in the next election, or even the ability to call for a recall election.
Should school board members in our parish be subject to term limits? It’s a tough decision, but an extremely important one. That is why it is imperative to make the decision that you feel will most benefit our community.
I encourage everyone to go out and vote on Nov. 6, not only for our country’s next president, but for the future success of our school district. The decision is in our hands, and it is our duty to make the right choice to protect the future of education for children growing up in Jeff Davis Parish.
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