Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday that improving public schools will be the top priority of his second term.
“We have made great progress as a state,” Jindal said.
But he added, “We have a lot more work to do.”
Jindal made his comments in his first formal meeting with reporters since he was re-elected Saturday with 66 percent of the vote in a 10-candidate field.
The governor was heavily involved in races for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and said he plans to do the same in the Nov. 19 runoff.
Jindal needs one more ally on BESE to emerge from the three election runoffs to win approval for John White as the next superintendent of education, officials said.
The governor has favored White for months but has been unable to get the eight votes needed on BESE, an 11-member panel that sets school policies.
White, 35, is superintendent of the Recovery School District, which oversees troubled schools in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and elsewhere.
Student achievement in Louisiana public schools regularly ranks among the lowest in the nation, and has for decades.
Earlier this month, the state announced that 44 percent of roughly 1,300 public schools earned a “D” or “F” under a new law that assigns letter grades to school performance.
Jindal noted that high school graduation rates and math and reading scores have shown gains and the number of failing schools has dropped.
But he said Saturday’s results show that “voters want change; they want reform; they want accountability in our schools.”
Jindal said economic development, a key priority of his first term, will be so again.
“Education reform is a key component of that,” he said.
The governor did not spell out details of his upcoming education agenda.
He said he wants to give families more school choices, especially for students in troubled schools.
Three of five candidates backed by the governor won their contests in Saturday’s election.
Jindal names three other BESE members.
Walter Lee of Mansfield, who won another term without opposition, says he will be the eighth vote for White if it comes to that.
“He only needs one of the three (runoff winners) really to get the eighth BESE member,” said Penny Dastugue, who is president of BESE and a Jindal appointee.
One possibility is incumbent Chas Roemer of Baton Rouge, who faces Donald Songy in the District 6 BESE runoff that the governor called critical.
Roemer, who like Jindal is a Republican, is considered a near certain “yes” vote for White and was backed by the governor in the primary election.
“We absolutely will be helping Chas,” Jindal told reporters.
Songy, a Democrat and former superintendent for the Ascension Parish school system , said earlier that he has a lot of reservations about White.
Another chance for Jindal rests with District 2, where incumbent Louella Givens of New Orleans faces Kira Orange Jones, also of New Orleans.
Jones, unlike Givens, is considered a possible White supporter if she wins.
However, that BESE district is heavily Democratic and Jindal’s open support could hurt her bid.
Jones led in the four-candidate primary election with 39 percent to 31 percent for Givens.
Both are Democrats.
The other runoff is in District 8, which will match Carolyn Hill of Baton Rouge, a registered social worker against Jim Guillory of Plaucheville, a retired businessman.
Neither has committed to supporting White.
Hill led the four-candidate field with 29 percent of the vote to 28 percent for Guillory.
Hill is a Democrat. Guillory has no party affiliation.
Roemer finished with 45 percent of the vote to 29 percent for Songy and 27 percent for Beth Meyers of Denham Springs.
Songy on Monday was endorsed by Meyers in his runoff contest against Roemer.
In a prepared statement, Meyers said Songy is best suited to representing the interests of children in BESE District 6.
“His heart is in the right place,” Meyers said.
Jindal also endorsed veteran BESE incumbent Glenny Lee Buquet of Houma, who was defeated.