Carolyn Hill, who is seeking her second term on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, blasted the panel Wednesday night during a forum with challenger Jada Lewis.
Hill, who often clashes with other BESE members, painted the 11-member board as out of touch.
“Right now, the community does not trust BESE,” she said.
Hill added later on another topic, “BESE has neglected to do that, listen to the parents.”
She also said that, of the six incumbent panel members on the ballot next month, only two have worked for children, a reference to herself and BESE member Lottie Beebe, who lives in Breaux Bridge.
“The rest have worked for reform,” Hill said. “The thing they have forgotten is children.”
Hill is a social worker.
Lewis, an assistant dean of the College of Engineering at LSU, said she is from a family of educators, has worked for years to boost the number of minorities and women in engineering and that workforce development is one of her chief goals.
She said some of Louisiana’s ideas about public education are ancient.
“We have some challenges,” Lewis said. “I want to turn those challenges into opportunities.”
The 60-minute forum was sponsored by a group called Beyond Bricks EBR, which held a “listening tour” earlier this year to come up with what organizers call a community-driven education agenda. Organizers include parent groups, school leaders and religious ministers.
The forum moderator was Anna Fogle, an organizer of the organization and the mother of two children in public schools.
The Hill-Lewis contest is one of eight on the Oct. 24 primary ballot.
It is also one of six that feature just two candidates.
That means at least six of BESE’s 11 seats will be decided next month.
Both Hill and Lewis are Democrats.
Hill is backed by a group called Flip BESE, which is critical of Common Core and some other high-profile school changes in recent years.
Lewis is backed by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, which has promoted many of those changes.
Both endorsed universal pre-K. Both also criticized expulsions and suspensions from public schools.
“If kids are not in school, they are not learning,” Lewis said.
However, there were also differences on key topics.
Hill, who often clashes with state Superintendent of Education John White, said BESE has given White too much leeway in the oversight of schools that accept voucher students — taxpayer-financed aid for some students to attend private schools if they meet income rules.
Lewis disagreed. “I think there is proper accountability,” she said.
Hill noted her years of disputes with White. “Most of the decisions John White has put in place, I opposed,” she said.
Lewis said she supports White’s promotion of course choice — classes offered through nontraditional means — Advanced Placement courses and dual enrollment, both of which allow high school students to earn college credit.
Hill portrayed herself as a forceful advocate for her district.
“I did what was right for my community,” she said. “But most importantly, I have been a voice for the people.”
Lewis said Hill “is known as the solid no vote” on education progress, a reference to her frequent alliance with Beebe in opposing some of the sweeping education changes since she took office in 2012.
BESE sets policies for about 720,000 public school students statewide.
The forum was taped and is set to be on the group’s website — beyondbricksEBR.org.