Education superintendent selection change rejected

State Rep. Joe Harrison’s bid to change the way the state superintendent of education is picked failed Tuesday for the second time in less than a week.

Harrison, R-Napoleonville, who lost his bid last week to require a statewide election for the job, tried a different approach this time.

He urged the House to spell out new rules for applicants for the job, which he said would open the process and allow veteran state educators to get in the mix.

Harrison and some other lawmakers have complained about state Superintendent of Education John White, who was superintendent of the Recovery School District when he was named in 2012.

Under existing rules, the superintendent is appointed by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Harrison proposed that applicants for the job either have to have been a superintendent for a local school system and have a master’s degree plus 30 hours in school administration or at least five years of administrative experience in business or industry and a master’s degree in business administration.

“This allows candidates to openly apply, as we did with our jobs, but to give us a better look at who is out there, who is the best person for the job, and have a pool to choose from,” he said.

Opponents said the rules would be too narrow.

House Education Committee Chairman Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, said former state Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard would not have qualified for the job under Harrison’s proposal.

State Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, said that part of Harrison’s plan would be limited to 70 sitting superintendents in a state with about 4 million residents.

Landry said the change would tie the hands of BESE “and not allow them to pick the best superintendent for the job.”

Harrison’s bill was in the form of an amendment to a proposal — House Bill 127 — that called for the statewide election of the state superintendent.

The amendment failed 41-54.

The entire bill was then defeated 39-56.

Harrison offered a constitutional amendment last week to require the election rather than appointment of the state’s public school boss. It failed 40-56 after only a brief discussion.

The superintendent recommends and carries out policies that affect about 686,000 public school students.

Before White was RSD superintendent he was deputy superintendent of the New York City school system.

He has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in public administration from New York University.