A political action committee affiliated with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber is giving money to candidates in four of the six East Baton Rouge Parish School Board races, including newcomers Mark Bellue and Chris Bailey.
FuturePAC also announced Tuesday its endorsement of incumbents Evelyn Ware-Jackson for District 5 and Barbara Freiberg for District 7. Neither is surprising. The PAC supported both when they ran in 2010.
FuturePAC said that by the Nov. 4 election date it will have given $5,000 each, the legal limit for such a PAC, to Bailey, Bellue, Freiberg and Ware-Jackson.
And, the PAC is giving an unspecified amount of money to two School Board members who were re-elected without opposition, candidates it has supported before: Jill Dyason, District 6, and David Tatman, District 9.
The other incumbent elected without opposition, Kenyetta Nelson-Smith, did not get FuturePAC’s endorsement.
The endorsements are similar to ones announced Sept. 24 by another political action committee, Better Schools for Better Futures, formed in August by Cajun Industries founder Lane Grigsby. The chamber was one of several organizations involved in that endorsement process.
Both PACs went for newcomers Bellue, a lobbyist for an insurance company, for the District 1 seat, and Bailey, a benefits consultant for another insurance company, for District 8. In so doing, the PACs passed over incumbents Mary Lynch, who joined the board in May, and Connie Bernard, who is seeking a second term. FuturePAC endorsed two of Bernard’s opponents in 2010, but belatedly contributed to her soon after she won that election.
Unlike Better Schools, FuturePAC opted not to endorse any candidates in the District 2 and District 4 races. Better Schools, by contrast, endorsed challengers Daniel Banguel and Robert Maxie in those races. The incumbents running in those districts, Vereta Lee and Tarvald Smith, have often been critical of business leaders in Baton Rouge. Lee was a target for ouster in 2010 by the chamber and Grigbsy.
In a statement, Pat Felder, chairwoman of the FuturePAC board of directors, said the endorsed candidates have shown both their desire and willingness to bring needed change.
“They are committed to working tirelessly to ensure that every child in the East Baton Rouge Parish public school system has access to a quality education,” she said.
FuturePAC may offer additional support to the candidates it endorses.
“FuturePAC is looking at each race to determine if it will engage in other communications or marketing,” said Lauren Hatcher, a spokeswoman for the chamber.
Hatcher said FuturePAC interviewed only those incumbents it endorsed in 2010 but extended invites to all the newcomers. The interviews were conducted by the PAC’s 13-member board of directors, she said.
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber has long been active in public education in Baton Rouge. It sought to influence the hiring of several past superintendents, underwrote much of the lengthy development of the school system’s current strategic plan, sought to have principals run schools via management contracts similar to charter schools, and persuaded the School Board in July to shrink from 11 members to nine.