We were not surprised that local-option ballot measures on the Nov. 6 ballot to limit the terms of school board members passed easily in every Louisiana school district in which it was on the ballot, including East Baton Rouge, Orleans, Livingston, Ascension, West Baton Rouge, West Feliciana, Iberville and St. Helena. Voters seem to like the idea of term limits for many public offices. Given that reality, the measures limiting school board members to 12 consecutive years of service were favored to win approval.
The newly approved term-limits measures for school board members in area parishes start with school board elections held after Jan. 1, 2014.
Significantly, the school board term-limits measures passed in areas with troubled public schools — as well as in parishes such as Ascension and Livingston, which seem to perform relatively well in statewide assessments of school performance.
Advocates of term limits for school board members argued that without such limits, school board members could become too entrenched in their positions, limiting the ability of school systems to adapt and improve.
But we’ve never been a fan of term limits for members of deliberative bodies. Such limits tend to remove as many good members as bad ones from governing boards. What’s more, voters also have the ability to vote out board members at the polls. We’d also note that the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board doesn’t seem plagued by lots of members intent on staying in office. Indeed, the larger challenge seems to be retaining members — or getting a decent field of candidates to run for these positions.
We support reasonable efforts to reform public education. We rather doubt, though, that these newly imposed term limits on school board members will accomplish much.