Search This Blog


Anti-reformers get leg up in Jefferson races

Round III in the reform vs. anti-reform battle for the Jefferson Parish School Board got more interesting last week.

The nine-member body has received much attention over the previous two election cycles. In 2010, tired of lagging student performance, reform interests backed by area business managed to elect a majority.  In the ensuing four years, the board let go of a collective bargaining agreement that hampered change and became much friendlier to policy options such as charter schools, hiring a superintendent to match.

In the interim, the district’s performance improved. Despite that, the empire struck back. With union-affiliated organizations piling hundreds of thousands of dollars into 2014 races, labor won back a majority. Reinstituting collective bargaining followed plus the hiring of a new superintendent without reformist impulses.

Predictably, performance started to lag again, and the Board showed the superintendent the door. The new one, Cade Brumley, exhibited more sympathy to reformist policies.

Meanwhile, reformist fortunes had begun to rise again. One new member initially deemed as friendly to unions, Melinda Doucet, began having second thoughts. She never had wanted to support the new agreement, and as time passed she increasingly began to deviate from the labor party line.

Then fate intervened when a reliable anti-reform vote, Ray St. Pierre, went to his eternal reward. Reform forces had enough pull to have Tiffany Kuhn appointed, and she subsequently won the special election without opposition. She has displayed more sympathy to reform efforts than her long-time predecessor.

Now comes the 2018 elections. At present, the board breaks down between anti-reformers the only two Democrats Ricky Johnson and Cedric Floyd plus Republican Marion “Coach” Bonura, and reformers Republicans Kuhn, Melinda Bourgeois, Larry Dale, Doucet, and Sandy Denapolis-Bosarge. Independent Mark Morgan doesn’t typically hew to one side or the other. Only Bourgeois chose not to run again.

That put a reformer seat into play with a familiar candidate vying to flip that. In 2014, Republican Glenn Mayeaux was perhaps the most anti-reform of GOP candidates (with the possible exception of Bonura). He’ll try again after having to withdraw his bid for superintendent as he did not meet the job’s qualifications, leaving the field wide open for Brumley’s ascension. Republican Clay Moise will try to hold the seat for the reform faction.

But anti-reformers already have notched a scalp. Last week, courts struck Doucet’s name from the ballot after discovering she had not filed necessary state income tax information as required of all candidates. This awarded the office to Billy North of that faction.

Thus, if all incumbents win (given legal and public relations problems, Floyd and, to some extent Johnson, may lose but their replacements likely would continue toeing the labor line, and Dale drew no opposition), anti-reformers hold a 4-3 advantage. Moise would have to retain Bourgeois’ spot just to make Morgan the swing vote again in this scenario.

So, even if reformers seemed to enter the election season with momentum, that has dissipated. Now, interests backing reform policies, such as the Jefferson Parish Republican Party and generally businesses, will have to focus on defeating Bonura or Morgan to have a shot in obtaining a sure majority.

No comments: