Baton Rouge contractor Lane Grigsby, one of the leaders of a group that favors sweeping changes in public schools, said Saturday’s primary election results show the state’s top school board is on the right path.
“The state of Louisiana is headed in a new direction,” Grigsby said.
He also said he expects that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s pick to be the next state superintendent will be approved when the new state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education holds its first meeting in January.
Grigsby is on the steering committee of the Alliance for Better Classrooms political action committee.
The group favors a wide range of steps in the name of school choice, including tax credits, and major changes in how schools are funded.
ABC officials said they plan to spend at least $1 million on BESE races.
Seven of BESE’s 11 seats were on Saturday’s primary election ballot.
ABC-backed candidates won in three races, lost in two others and backed the leaders in two other races that resulted in runoffs.
One of those contests is District 6, which will match incumbent Chas Roemer, whom ABC backs, against former Ascension Parish Superintendent Donald Songy.
Another one is District 2, which will match challenger Kira Orange Jones of New Orleans, who led in Saturday’s voting and is backed by ABC, against incumbent Louella Givens, who also lives in New Orleans.
Grigsby said he is confident Roemer and Jones will prevail in the Nov. 19 runoff.
However, a group that includes superintendents, school board members and teacher unions backs Songy and Givens.
Officials of that group, the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education, contends that changes backed by ABC are misguided, including the push for more options aside
from traditional public schools and tougher teacher standards.
Don Whittinghill, a consultant for the Louisiana Schools Boards Association, said Saturday’s results showed that school bus drivers, teachers and lunchroom workers failed to “realize the seriousness of the threat to their future” in efforts to revamp BESE.
Whittinghill noted that only about 36 percent of voters cast ballots.
“Saturday’s pathetic turnout is likely to be even more pathetic on election day,” Whittinghill said of the Nov. 19 runoff.
Grigsby also backs Jindal’s push to make John White, who is superintendent of the Recovery School District, the next state superintendent of education.
Jindal, who has been unable to win enough BESE support for White so far, is involved in board races to gain more allies.
Grigsby said he is confident that a supermajority of BESE — at least eight of 11 members — will get behind White when the new panel takes office in January.
Four days before Saturday’s primary, ABC PAC got a $100,000 contribution from the Michael R. Bloomberg Revocable Trust.
Bloomberg, who is mayor of New York City, has pushed for wide changes in public schools there, including charter schools and retaining third-graders who failed to pass a standardized test.
White, who has been on the job for about six months, is former deputy chancellor of the New York City school system.