BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Bills are rolling in for the regular Louisiana legislative session and one lawmaker is looking to make major changes to the BESE board.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education makes decisions impacting all children in Louisiana and how they learn. It is an 11 member board. Eight are elected and three are appointed by the governor.
Representative Phillip Tarver of Lake Charles wants the board to be only elected members. House Bill 4 would remove the three gubernatorial appointed members.
“To me, it’s just a very strange hybrid system that doesn’t make any sense. Here we have an elected operating government board that represents the people and then you can throw in there into that mix a different kind of influence that could impact the outcomes,” Rep. Tarver said.
Rep. Tarver said he feels they could be influencing the rest of the board with the governor’s beliefs when it is supposed to reflect the people’s opinions.
“You almost can say that the voter’s choices or the voters’ say in education matters are a little bit diluted. It dilutes the voice in the vote. My vote personally has not got the same significance as it would intend to,” Rep. Tarver said.
BESE was established in the 1974 constitution to govern the state’s elementary, secondary, special schools, and educational programs in state correctional and mental facilities. HB4 is a constitutional amendment, so if passed the people would get the last say in the November 2022 election.
Tarver does not have any specific instances where the governor’s members influenced the board as a whole. BESE was scrutinized publicly last year for their decisions over mask mandates in schools, among other decisions.
He said he has no issues with the current appointees and the bill wouldn’t even go into effect until the next administration. He just wants to make sure parents’ voices are heard.
“It’s not about this governor, it’s about any governor having the opportunity to influence. Believe me, you can’t say that it doesn’t have influence. I suppose that’s the reason they put it there into the constitution originally,” Rep. Tarver said.
He has yet to gauge his fellow legislator’s response to the bill but will start those conversations when they are back in Baton Rouge next week for the redistricting special session. The debates around HB4 will begin when the regular session starts on March 14.