With six weeks to go until Election Day on Nov. 8, a noticeable divide has opened up within Louisiana’s school reform community over whether to support the incumbents of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board. or support their opponents.
Thirty-three people have qualified to run for the nine seats on the parish school board, and only three have been endorsed by the three school reform-oriented groups that have released endorsements so far: Marc Bellue, Dadrius Lanus and Cliff Lewis.
Bellue in District 1 and Lanus in District 2 are starters. Lewis challenges the incumbent Evelyn Ware Jacksonbid for a fourth term; in 2018, Ware-Jackson beat Lewis by a 58-42 margin.
The Baton Rouge Area Room and Booth for children have long been among the top funders of candidates for local school boards. They are joined by a new organization, the Baton Rouge Alliance for Students.
The three groups are aligned in their support for charter schools, but have important differences. Stand is a statewide educational organization, Chamber is a regional business lobby that focuses on many issues, not just education, and the Alliance for Students is a Baton Rouge-only educational organization .
All three pay money directly to candidates. All three candidates are willing to spend money regardless of campaigns, though support varies by race.
Stand For Children was the biggest player in the 2018 school elections, pumping over $400,000 into races that year.
Another big spender in the last school elections, Democrats for Education Reform, or DFER, plans to announce the nominees from the school boards it supports in early October, chief executive Terrence Lockett said. The DFER only supports Democrats.
Another organization active in the 2018 elections, the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schoolsremains out of the Nov. 8 election, executive director Caroline Roemer said.
In their latest campaign finance reports, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Stand For Children had vast war chests of $130,000 and $237,000, respectively, with the ability to raise significantly more money if needed. . The Baton Rouge Alliance for Students released its most recent report in January, with $2,357 in the bank, but the group has been steadily raising funds since then for the Nov. 8 election.
Only one of the 33 candidates filed a personal campaign financial return. The next is due October 11.
Stand For Children supports the most incumbents, five out of nine. In addition to Bellue and Lanus, the group endorsed Jill DyasonDistrict 6; Michel Gaudet; District 7; and David TatmanDistrict 9. The deep-pocketed group supported all five incumbents in previous elections.
Ware-Jackson is the only titular starter who previously had Stand support who no longer has it. In 2018, Stand endorsed both Ware-Jackson and Lewis, but this time only backs Lewis, who works as a Parent Liaison Officer at Helix Mentorship STEAM Academy, a charter school located in downtown Baton Rouge and is married to former Subway Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis. Ware-Jackson has been endorsed by one of the two main teachers’ unions, the local chapter of the Association of Educators.
Carrie Griffin Monica, executive director of the Louisiana chapter of Stand, said his endorsements in Baton Rouge came from parents active in the organization and members of the capital’s community. Interested candidates filled out a questionnaire and presented themselves for interviews.
“It’s 100% based on people supporting the things that we know are moving the needle for kids,” Monica said.
Stand has been notable as one of East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Sito Narcisse’s most loyal supporters since he began in January 2021. Stand members testify regularly at East Baton Rouge board meetings. administration to support the initiatives of Narcisse.
Monica said her last mentions weren’t driven by whether or not the contestants supported Narcisse. She noted that board chairman Tatman, whom Stand endorsed, did not vote for Narcisse.
Nonetheless, she acknowledged that her group is generally supportive of what he does.
“Do we think outside of that, that Dr. Narcisse has been a leader who has invested in things that matter to children? Yes,” Monica said.
Baton Rouge Area Chamber, through its political arm FuturePAC, approved only three incumbents at the school board. He’s supported Dyason, Tatman and Ware-Jackson in the past, but not this.
The Chambers rather support the challengers Nathan Rust, patrick martin and Cliff Lewis, respectively. Rust is co-owner of Prestigious Painting in Baton Rouge, and Martin is a law professor and administrator at LSU.
Until this election, Dyason had the backing of the business lobby since joining the school board in 2001.
Dyason and Tatman will not run out of money. At the end of 2021, Dyason had over $22,000 and Tatman had over $65,000 on hand.
In the case of District 7, FuturePAC endorsed incumbent Gaudet, who has served on the board since 2017, but also endorsed one of its two challengers, Gloria wall. Wall is a former school physical therapist who sits on the boards of the AC Lewis YMCA, Rocketkidz Foundation, and Club South Runners.
Amendments issued by the Baton Rouge Alliance for Students, which was formed in 2021, are almost identical to those of the House, except that the organization only endorsed Wall, choosing not to endorse Gaudet. Bellue and Lanus are the only incumbents supported by the Alliance.
“We are very politically driven in how we evaluate new applicants and existing applicants,” explained founder Adonica Duggan, formerly director of communications for the Zachary and East Baton Rouge school systems as well as the purpose group. nonprofit New Schools for Baton Rouge.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t think the other incumbents aren’t nice people,” she added.
The races for Districts 3, 4 and 8 are open after incumbents Tramelle Howard, Dawn Collins and Connie Bernard withdrew – Bernard’s name will appear on the November 8 ballot but she announced earlier this month that he had stopped campaigning.
Among the newcomers, only Quartermaster Shashonnie is supported by the three school reform groups. Steward is one of three candidates seeking to replace outgoing Dawn Collins to represent District 4. Steward, along with Lewis in District 5, has received endorsement from the local chapter of the teachers federation. The rival teachers’ union, the Local Association of Educators, endorsed Tebbe Jackson in the District 5 race.
Steward owns Redstick Rehabilitative & Correctional Services, while Jackson is a 21-year veteran educator, 10 of them with the parochial school system. The third candidate in this race is Monique Wicks Robinson.
The two unions agree on races for Districts 2 and 7, with each endorsing Vereta Lee and Cathy Carmichel. Lee is in a rematch with Dadrius Lee who knocked her down in 2018, ending her 12-year tenure on the parish school board. Carmichael, who has three children in Baton Rouge public schools and is active in school issues, is one of two challengers to District 7 incumbent Mike Gaudet.
In arrondissements 3 and 8, the Chamber and the Student Alliance support newcomers Carla Powellformer professor of social studies at the parish of Iberville and pastor in a Baptist church, as well as joseph brit, Senior Regional Purchasing Manager for Westlake Corporation in Geismar. Stand For Children, however, chose not to endorse either candidate in either race.
In District 3, both teachers’ unions approved Jamie Robinsonmember of Parish Democratic Party Executive Committee who ran unsuccessfully for Metro Council in 2020. The third candidate in the District 3 race is Bernadette Thomas.
In District 8, no teachers’ union has endorsed Joseph Britt’s only opponent, Karen Kennison.
The unions diverge in the race for District 9. The Teachers’ Federation endorsed retired juvenile court judge Pamela Taylor Johnson, who is seeking to overthrow David Tatman, while the Educators’ Association chose not to back anyone in this course.