Advocates for the changes that have swept public schools in recent years, including Common Core, enjoy wide money leads in key races for Louisiana’s top school board.
Incumbents who have huge financial advantages over their challengers are Jim Garvey, of Metairie; Holly Boffy, of Youngsville; and Kira Orange Jones, of New Orleans.
All three are usually aligned with state Superintendent of Education John White on bellwether issues such as school letter grades, tougher teacher evaluations and charter schools, and were part of the pro-Common Core camp during months of arguments over the new standards in reading, writing and math.
Meanwhile, two incumbents who spent months blasting Common Core are trailing their challengers moneywise, with less than a month to go before the Oct. 24 primary. They are Lottie Beebe, who lives in Breaux Bridge, and Carolyn Hill, of Baton Rouge.
Beebe and Hill are regularly aligned with the critics of public school letter grades, revamped teacher evaluations and other bids to change school operations.
Financing in the three other races on the primary ballot, including the District 6 contest to succeed BESE President Chas Roemer, is more muddled.
Kathy Edmonston, a veteran educator who lives in Gonzales, is the money leader in that five-way battle, with $42,762 in cash on hand, according to state finance reports due last week.
BESE sets policies for about 720,000 public school students statewide.
Eight members are elected from districts statewide, and at least five of the posts will be decided on Oct. 24 because they feature one-on-one contests.
Three others are named by the governor.
This year’s races are considered crucial for the direction of public schools, and the new BESE will decide whether to recommend sweeping changes in Common Core or something less.
Self-styled public school reformers have enjoyed BESE majorities on key issues for the past four years.
But teachers unions, a group called Flip BESE that generally opposes Common Core and others hope to recast the makeup of the board.
Views on Common Core are one of the dividing lines, and candidate opinions on the long-debated academic benchmarks often shed light on a wide range of school topics.
Garvey, who is vice president of BESE, reported having $218,460 in cash on hand in his bid for another term in the District 1 seat.
Roemer, who, like White, is firmly in the pro-Common Core camp, donated $2,500.
Common Core critic Lee Barrios, of Abita Springs, said she has $2,886 in her campaign treasury in her challenge of Garvey.
Boffy, a former state teacher of the year, said she has $93,921 in campaign cash on hand.
Mike Kreamer, who lives in Lafayette and is backed by Flip BESE, said he has $5,152 in his bid for the District 7 post held by Boffy.
Jones said she has $105,531 in her campaign treasury in the District 2 race.
The challengers — Kara Washington and Gwendolyn Bordenave — said they have $900 and zero campaign dollars, respectively.
Washington and Bordenave both live in New Orleans.
Hill, who is seeking her second term in the District 8 seat, said she has $2,959 in cash on hand.
Contributors include the Louisiana Federation of Teachers PAC, $1,000 and the Louisiana Association of Educators, $2,500.
Challenger Jada Lewis, an assistant dean at the LSU College of Engineering, said her campaign treasury totals $70,944.
Contributors include four political action committees for the pro-Common Core Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, $40,000; Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby and his wife Bobbi, $10,000; and former BESE member Leslie Jacobs, $5,000.
Beebe said she has $3,101 in cash on hand, including a contribution of $2,500 from the LAE.
Challenger Sandy Holloway, who lives in Thibodaux, said she has $45,637.
Contributors include $35,000 from four LABI political action committees; $10,000 from the Grigsbys and $500 from the campaign fund for House Speaker Charles Kleckley, R-Lake Charles.
Aside from Edmonston in District 6, Laree Taylor reported having $20,495 in her campaign war chest, including $10,000 from both Grigsbys; Etta Licciardi, $3,153; Jason France, $44; and Jason Engen, zero.
In District 4 in northwest Louisiana, incumbent Mary Harris, $5,309; Glynis Johnston, $286; and Tony Davis, $100.
In the open District 5 in northeast Louisiana, neither Gary Jones nor Johnny Fatheree reported having any funds in their campaign coffers.
Jones, who got in the race late, said his Oct. 14 report will show more activity, which is true of other candidates too.
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