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Common Core Brings Out Big Bucks for BESE Races

Eight of the eleven Board of Elementary and Secondary Education seats are up for election on October 24th. (The other three are appointed by Louisiana’s governor.) And while board members don’t get paid a penny for their service, big bucks are being invested in the race.

“The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, for example, is going put just as much money – almost – into the BESE races as they will all of the legislative races, all of the House and Senate contests that they’re involved in,” says Jeremy Alford with

This is the second election cycle in a row with major money going into the BESE races.

“Four years ago, Governor Bobby Jindal – in concert with the Republican Party – dumped a lot of money into this race to elect what they called the ‘reform’ candidates,” Alford says.

Jindal had a $7-million dollar state campaign warchest in 2011, and little competition in his run for a second term. He used much of that money to support certain BESE candidates, wanting to be sure he had enough “yes” votes to get John White installed as State Superintendent. He got them—and more.

“This is a group that ended up instituting changes to teacher tenure and charters and vouchers,” Alford says of the education reform legislation now known as Acts 1, 2 and 3 of the 2012 Legislature.

That legislation has proved controversial, with more than a few provisions ruled unconstitutional by the courts.

This year, the battle centers around Common Core. Jindal has since crawfished away from his previous support of the multi-state standards. Business, in general, wants to keep Common Core in place and they’re spending money on the candidates they believe will do so.

“There’s probably a half-dozen PACs on the pro-reform side, on the business side,” Alford says.

LABI’s PACS and Stand for Children are backing incumbents Jim Garvey of the 1st district, Kira Orange-Jones of the 2nd district, and Holly Boffy of BESE district 7.

On the other hand…

“There’s a parents’ group called ‘Flip BESE’ that has a field of candidates that they’re backing,” Alford states. “And there’s another group – a national group – that opposes these corporate-backed education changes.”

They want Garvey, Orange-Jones and Boffy gone, but want to keep Lottie Beebe in the 3rd district, Mary Harris in the 4th, and Carolyn Hill of the 8th district all on BESE. Business is supporting Sandy Holloway over Beebe, Tony Davis over Harris, and Jada Lewis over Hill.

In the 5th district’s open seat, LABI and Stand for Children support Gary Jones, while Flip BESE backs Johnny Fatheree.

And in the 6th district, five candidates are seeking the BESE seat being left open by Chas Roemer. LABI is backing both Jason Engen and Laree LeJeune Taylor. Flip BESE is supporting

Jason France.