Term limits seeing wide approval

A bid to enact term limits for local school board members was winning approval by wide margins in the Baton Rouge area, according to incomplete election results on Tuesday night.

The measure was passing handily in the East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Livingston parishes school systems.

All three were among the 67 districts statewide that decided the issue, and voters were endorsing it in every case, election results showed.

Under current rules, school board members can serve indefinitely in all but the Lafayette and Jefferson parishes school systems, which enacted term limits strictly for their areas earlier.

The proposal that voters in each school district decided on Tuesday would limit service to 12 consecutive years starting with elections after Jan. 1, 2014.

With 306 of 315 precincts reporting the results in the East Baton Rouge Parish School District were:

Yes: 105,088, 75 percent.

No: 35,326, 25 percent.

In the Ascension Parish School District the results with 75 of 75 precincts reporting were:

Yes: 35,418, 76 percent.

No: 11,029, 24 percent.

In the Livingston Parish School District the results with 71 of 79 precincts reporting were:

Yes: 34,361, 78 percent.

No: 9,720, 22 percent.

The measure was also winning approval by wide margins in the West Baton Rouge, Iberville, West Feliciana and St. Helena parishes school systems.

In addition, it drew heavy support in school districts in the New Orleans and Lafayette areas.

State Rep. Stephen Pugh, R-Ponchatoula and sponsor of the 2012 law that sparked the vote, said Tuesday night he was encouraged by the early results, and especially the margins of support for the plan statewide.

“A lot of Louisiana residents are in favor of term limits across the board,” Pugh said late Tuesday. “I feel that is part of the sentiment of getting the local option passed.”

Pugh said backers also view the move as the “last part of the reform” of public schools, which were the target of major, wide-ranging legislation earlier this year.

While the issue did not spark a statewide campaign, the Louisiana School Boards Association, called LSBA, has opposed term limits for years.

LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard said early Tuesday night that it appeared the measure “will pass in many, many parishes. “We certainly respect the wishes of the voters,” Richard said.

Local school boards decide a wide range of issues that have a direct impact on daily operations, including budgets, personnel policies and school openings and closings.

However, the role of board members in teacher hiring and firing decisions and other issues was reduced earlier this year as part of Gov. Bobby Jindals’ push to overhaul public schools.

Backers say that term limits helps inject new ideas into local education issues.

They argue that, after more than a decade of major changes in public schools, local boards have generally remained untouched.

Opponents contend that the ballot box already serves as a form of term limits.

Whether to impose terms limits on local school boards has been debated in the Legislature for years.

In 2009 a bid by state Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, to place a limit on school board service statewide without a statewide vote died in a Louisiana House committee.

In 2010 legislation that would let voters decide the issue — virtually identical to this year’s plan — passed the Louisiana House but died in a state Senate committee.

Pugh’s plan narrowly passed the Legislature earlier this year, which paved the way for a local option vote in every school district for Lafayette and Jefferson.

The proposal did not apply to the Recovery School District, which oversees troubled public schools in Louisiana, or to charter schools.