BESE Candidates Debate Common Core
BATON ROUGE — Three Republican candidates for the State Board of Elementary & Secondary Education spoke at the Ronald Reagan Newsmaker Luncheon Oct. 13 on their plans if elected to the board.
Candidates Kathy Edmonston, Jason Engen, and Etta Licciardi spoke and answered questions for nearly an hour. Another Republican candidate, Laree Taylor, was unable attend. Kathy Edmonston said voters should beware because out-of-state special interest groups are spending millions to try to take control of BESE, which doesn’t pay a salary but does control many millions of dollars in state spending.
The three candidates who attended the forum also answered the Republican Party’s candidate questionnaire. Here are their answers to 10 of the more important questions:
1. Some parish superintendents say State Supt. John White does not value their opinion or provide them with real support. Will you support hiring a new Superintendent?
ENGEN: I believe Louisiana should have the best superintendent we can find. If the BESE board were presented a candidate who was better than John White, then yes, I would support that person.
LICCIARDI: Yes, I will support hiring a new State Superintendent who holds at least the minimum standards to which other superintendents in the state are held.
2. Will you support a statewide policy of opening the school day with the Pledge of Allegiance and an opportunity for students to engage in student-led, student-initiated prayer?
3. Will you make sure that curricula and textbooks adopted in Louisiana reflect traditional values of family, marriage, and life and that they accurately portray American history and our Founding Fathers, rather than a revisionist, politically-correct version of history?
4. Will you oppose efforts to impose “political correctness” on our schools, administrators, teachers, and students?
5. Will you oppose adoption by BESE of a policy similar to the so-called “Fairness Ordinance” (rejected by the Baton Rouge Metro Council), which would give a special status or privilege based on sexual orientation?
6. Do you support corporal punishment in Louisiana’s schools?
EDMONSTON: If a child is out of control, he should be removed from the classroom. Parents should then be called before further measures are taken.
LICCIARDI: No, but I do feel there are many means of discipline that are acceptable and effective.
7. Will you support neighborhood schools, meaning the creation of one compact district for each local school, other than magnet or special schools?
LICCIARDI: Yes, I will support; however, these matters should be left to each school district not BESE, in my opinion.
8. Are you for or against Common Core?
ENGEN: The insidious parts of Common Core have been eliminated by bills introduced by Rep. Schroder. including PARCC, sharing private, identifiable data, exceptions for students with disabilities, etc. I believe Louisiana is capable of, and should, establish our own standards and curriculum should be decided at the local level.
LICCIARDI: I favor rigorous standards for all students. Common Core has become a battleground where much energy and blood has been expended. It is time to revamp our educational standards with all interested parties at the table. Common Core must go.
9. Some recent education “reforms” took away school boards’ authority to approve or disapprove the hiring and firing of principals and other key personnel in local school districts and turned over sole authority for personnel matters to the school superintendent. In East Baton Rouge Parish, the former superintendent recently replaced 39 principals with no input from the board. Do you favor restoring the right of local school boards to approve or disapprove the hiring and firing of key personnel in the system?
EDMONSTON: Yes, school boards should have more input.
ENGEN: Undecided – more information needed.
LICCIARDI: School boards should have their authority restored.
10. Do you support the right of citizens in Southeast Baton Rouge to vote on whether to form their own school system?
LICCIARDI: I think we need to improve conditions for all students in the Baton Rouge area so that each community does not feel the need to depart from the district.