One does not require a Ph.D. in government to know that Louisiana’s chief executive is one of the most powerful offices, in its sphere, in the entire United States.
Further, Gov. Bobby Jindal has shown he’s quite ready to sack an official who disobeys orders.
So how is it that Jindal’s call for an end to Louisiana’s participation in higher standards in public schools has been spurned by education authorities?
It’s an interesting quirk in Louisiana’s system that the responsibility for public schools, and the limited regulation and support of private schools, is set apart from the ordinary governmental structure. At the time of the adoption of the 1974 constitution, the state superintendent of education was elected statewide and thus operated from an independent political position; now the job is an appointment, but not appointed by the governor.
Instead, current Superintendent John White was appointed by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. White noted that BESE’s members — eight elected from districts around the state and three appointed by the governor — have broad constitutional authority for public education.
That mandate is one of the reasons that BESE President Chas Roemer, an elected member from Baton Rouge, and White can argue that the governor’s opposition on Common Core standards does not bind their actions.
The members of BESE appointed by the governor do not serve “at pleasure,” as most gubernatorial appointees. Instead, they are appointed to a term on the board and cannot be fired except for wrongdoing.
All this doesn’t mean that the governor’s opposition to the Common Core improvements is meaningless. As White noted, the voice of such an important figure is bound to raise questions and concerns in the minds of the public and educators.
And the governor’s influence in terms of lobbying — or pressuring — BESE members operates in the realm of politics and not pure policy.
Morally, though, White and Roemer hold the high ground: The Legislature, despite much lobbying and debate, rejected anti-Common Core bills.
“It runs contrary to the democratic process and the laws of this state,” said Roemer of the governor’s statements.
We commend White, Roemer and BESE’s majority for staunch support of higher academic standards in public schools. We hope they use their independence to the fullest to keep Louisiana’s drives for school accountability and student success on the tracks.