After taking about 8 weeks to rule on a lawsuit filed by citizens of Louisiana, Judge Todd Hernandez of the 19th Judicial District in Baton Rouge, ruled that ordinary citizens do not have the right to challenge John White’s right to remain in the position of Superintendent of Education. This is the second lawsuit dismissed for this reason. The first was filed in May 2017 and eventually dismissed by Judge William Morvant. I’m both disappointed and confused by the rulings, but not surprised. The problem is not in the outcome of the lawsuit. The law is pretty clear about who can challenge the right to hold an office, but challenging the right to hold office was not the goal of either lawsuit. Neither of the suits intended to directly remove John White from office. The goal was to clarify that BESE does, indeed, have a duty and responsibility to appoint a superintendent, and force that to happen. We wanted a declaration that it is not okay to ignore the duty simply because the simple majority that wants to keep White in place doesn’t have the votes it needs to garner the “super-majority” vote required by law. That is the whole point of democratic elections.
What the outcome of these two suits has resulted in is an elected body displaying its allegiance, not to its constituents, but to the financial backers that supported their campaigns. This elected body has not only refused to address the appointment of a superintendent, but also, has never discussed keeping White on a monthly basis, has never taken any vote whatsoever regarding an appointment, and twice defended its “failure to execute its duty” in a court of law without having taken a vote to do that. It is a complete and utter disregard for the rule of law because the law doesn’t suit their needs. I can assure you that if the situation were reversed in some mystical sort of way, they would bring in the big guns with deep pockets and shout to the heavens about the abhorrent disrespect for the law.
But the problems don’t begin, or end, with BESE. We have a whole bevy of problems to choose from at any given moment in time. Here are just a few.
- We have local school boards who are elected on the backs of their communities, and then once seated, turn a deaf ear to their communities in favor of passing the policies that the administration wants. School Boards don’t work on behalf of school systems. They work for the people who elected them and should strive to develop a cohesive plan with broad support that ensures the success of all children.
- We have school superintendents who establish policies that are not in the best interest of children because they fear that by not adhering to State policy, they will be punished by BESE or LDOE. School superintendents don’t work for BESE or LDOE. They work for school boards who, in turn, are elected by communities.
- We have a state superintendent who remains employed in spite of the expiration of his appointment and contract, has created division among stakeholders since his first day on the job, has had more criticism and opposition from the general public than any superintendent, EVER!
- We have a BESE board with 8 elected members and 3 members appointed by the governor that refuses to fulfill its duty to appoint a superintendent.
- We have a BESE president who says he won’t deny anyone’s request to put the discussion of appointment on the agenda, but has never done so himself because the consensus is there isn’t any interest in it.
- We have 3 BESE members appointed by the governor who have never taken the initiative to put the discussion on the agenda.
- We have a legislature that is beholden to LABI and will not address education issues regardless of how many people scream because LABI will back someone else for the next election.
- We have a Senate President who has the power and authority to force BESE’s hand, but refuses to do it because it is too political. Our education system is in the condition it’s in BECAUSE of politics.
- And last, but not least, the only elected person who is not beholden to LABI, and was elected largely because of the support from parents and teachers who are fed up with education reform, Governor John Bel Edwards has passed on every opportunity to dethrone White and start the process of recovery.
Those are just some of the problems we have with our elected officials. Meanwhile, we have a “non-union” teacher organization, partnering with a non-profit funded by out of state billionaires, embracing White’s policies, and somehow managing to stack every taskforce, commission, council, etc. with their people so that “independent parties,” funded by non-profits that are funded by billionaire philanthropists can publish articles about Louisiana’s successes and make ridiculous suggestions such as urging Ohio (ranked 22nd) to follow the education model of Louisiana (ranked 46th), all the while claiming that the successes came from a grassroots movement from within.
Can you hear what I am saying? Can you discern my emotional state by the tone of my typing? I can tell you this, especially to those who insist that there are only a few people screaming in support of the “status quo,” and that filing lawsuits is frivolous, democracy is the very foundation of our Country, and when the voices of the people are ignored because of greed, arrogance, ignorance, or whatever, and you can’t compete with the deep pockets in elections, the only remedy that remains is litigation. Call it what you want.
It aint over!