Business-backed candidates enjoy huge financial advantages over those recommended by teachers unions in races for Louisiana’s top school board, according to the latest campaign finance reports.
Six contenders backed by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, which also favors major changes in public schools, showed big money leads for the reporting period that ended on Oct. 4.
The list includes Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Vice President Jim Garvey, of Metairie; BESE Treasurer Holly Boffy, of Lafayette; incumbent Kira Orange Jones, of New Orleans; Sandy Holloway, of Thibodaux, who is trying to replace BESE member Lottie Beebe, of Breaux Bridge; Gary Jones, of Alexandria, who is running for a vacant post in northeast Louisiana; and Jada Lewis, of Baton Rouge, who is trying to unseat incumbent Carolyn Hill, also of Baton Rouge.
All six are opposed by contenders recommended by the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.
Three other LABI-backed candidates, Jason Engen and Laree Taylor, who hope to succeed Chas Roemer, of Baton Rouge, and Tony Davis, of Natchitoches, who is running to replace incumbent Mary Harris, of Shreveport, also show strong financial support, according to reports that were due by midnight Wednesday.
Engen and Taylor live in Baton Rouge.
The primary is Oct. 24.
At least six of eight BESE races will be settled then.
The two other contests will require runoffs on Nov. 21 unless one candidate gets at least 50 percent of the vote, plus one.
Three other members of the panel will be named by the next governor.
BESE sets policies for about 720,000 students statewide.
Which candidates LABI and teachers unions back offer sort of a guidepost to this year’s races.
LABI supports Common Core and a wide range of other school changes that have sparked controversy for years.
Critics of the recent overhaul, including the LAE and LFT, have long criticized the rollout of the new standards and want many of the recent school changes rolled back, including letter grades for public schools.
Garvey reported spending $61,011 between Sept. 15 and Oct. 4 and has $169,448 in the bank. Challenger Lee Barrios said she spent $2,380 and has $4,761 on hand.
Boffy said she spent $24,237 and has $82,908 in the bank. Challenger Mike Kreamer said his expenditures total $7,285, with $8,032 in reserve.
Jones reported spending $88,743 and has $56,920 in the bank. Challenger Kara Washington said she spent $5,359 and has a negative balance of $1,473.
Holloway said she spent $55,188 and has $32,418 in cash on hand. Beebe said she spent $3,908 and has $10,301.
In northeast Louisiana, Gary Jones said he has $36,000 on hand for the campaign’s final weeks, while opponent Johnny Fatheree has $1,048.
Hill said she spent $6,743 and has $2,878 in cash on hand. Lewis said her expenditures total $10,358 for the period, with $94,706 in reserve.
In the race to succeed Roemer, Engen said he spent $6,575 in recent weeks and has $33,424 in cash on hand. Taylor spent just $54 but has $37,990 in the bank.
A third contender, Kathy Edmonston, of Gonzales, said she has spent $1,200 and has $51,711 in reserve.
Jason France said he spent $77.48 and has $1,042 in the bank.
No report was available for Etta Licciardi, who lives in Loranger.
Davis said he spent $386 for the period, with $37,213 in cash on hand.
Harris said she spent $7,656 and has $1,152 in reserve.
The third contender, Glynis Johnston, said she spent $832 and has $2,414 in the bank.
The LAE and LFT recommend Barrios, Washington, Beebe, Harris, Fatheree, Kreamer and Hill, and three in the race to succeed Roemer — Edmonston, France and Licciardi.
In another development, a super PAC backed by Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby reported spending about $818,000 and has $1.2 million in the bank.
Grigsby has said the group, called Empower Louisiana, will push to retain and expand education reforms, including greater school choice.
The organization backs Garvey, Boffy, Holloway and Davis.
Super PACs can spend unlimited dollars to support candidates but are not supposed to coordinate their expenditures with those running.
One of the contributors is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who donated $800,000.
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