A victory for children in Louisiana
Children rarely have a voice in politics, and they certainly have no vote. But they were heard on Nov. 19 in Louisiana, thanks to the majority of voters—and the candidates representing our children and their future—who defeated those only interested in protecting the jobs of adults. It was a great day in our state's history.
Chas Roemer versus Donald Songy was a classic battle highlighting the clear choice for voters. Roemer is a businessman and a leader in education reform, while Songy is a retired school superintendent and teacher who spent three decades in the public school system supporting the status quo.
Roemer supports: 1) letter grades for our schools, 2) teacher evaluation based on student performance, and 3) charter schools and school choice expansion for parents and children. Songy is against them all.
Roemer had the backing of Gov. Bobby Jindal, the Alliance for Better Classrooms (Lane Grigsby), the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Congressman Bill Cassidy and the Louisiana Federation for Children. Songy had the support of both teacher unions (LFT and LAE), the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, the Louisiana School Boards Association, and Louisiana Retired Teachers Association. He also had former school superintendent and State Rep. Rogers Pope (of Livingston Parish) and Superintendent Patrice Pujol (of Ascension Parish) working for him behind the scenes.
The teams were chosen, the lines were drawn and the battle was on. Team Roemer soundly defeated Songy—and reform was the victor. The voters spoke loudly in this race and the two other BESE runoffs, where reformers Carolyn Hill and Kira Orange Jones also won. The BESE wins on Nov. 19, coupled with the wins by Holly Boffy, Jay Guillot and Jim Garvey in the primary, were a victory for children and education reform in Louisiana. It's a new day in our state.
Now that the elections are over, the hard work begins. Jindal has made education his top priority, and he will continue to push bold reforms over the next four years. Jindal saw the BESE races as must-win because they were so critical to our future. He and his supporters took a risk and got heavily involved in these races (unlike Sen. David Vitter, who sat them out on the sideline).
Now that a reform board is in place, it's time to elect a strong reform superintendent to work with Jindal and the Legislature. Job one is to fill the shoes of former superintendent and trailblazer Paul Pastorek. Jindal believes John White, current head of the Recovery School District, is the right choice for the job, and I agree. So do many others who have met him and who have witnessed the job he has done in his first six months. His work is very impressive and he keeps the focus on children and outcomes.
The fact is, several months ago, when Pastorek resigned to take a job out-of-state, White was the choice to replace him. But four BESE board members kept Jindal from reaching the eight votes needed out of 11 to give White the job. All four are gone! One chose not to run, and the other three were defeated by the voters. Is the message clear enough?
White could have had five months on the job by January if he had received one more vote. All of us who voted for new reform BESE members are expecting them to get on with business and put a strong leader—White—in place at the helm. He will complete Jindal's reform team at BESE and the State Department of Education and allow it to prepare for the upcoming legislative session. Opportunity knocks—and we don't have time to waste. The voters have spoken—and our children don't have time to wait.
Sign of the times
There are two November events in the Capital City that should inspire you and give you confidence in our future. One happened two weeks ago (for the first time), and the other takes place annually about this time. I am referring to the inaugural Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week and Business Report's Forty Under 40.
BREW took place Nov. 11-18 and included more than 20 events. It was part of Global Entrepreneurship Week. Maybe you attended one of the events or read about some of the impressive speakers. This was an opportunity to celebrate the contribution of entrepreneurs in our community and provide a forum for learning and networking for those just starting out. Many of these budding entrepreneurs can be found on our college campuses. (Ever heard of Michael Dell or Mark Zuckerberg?)
Congratulations to the Regional Innovation Organization and the almost 50 companies, organizations and agencies that were involved in this special week. Business Report was proud to be a part. (Look for photos from the week in our next issue.)
In our last issue, we highlighted this year's Forty Under 40. These rising stars in the Capital Region are making an impact. There were almost 200 nominees this year, which speaks well for Baton Rouge and our future. The honorees ranged in age from 26 to 39, which proves you don't have to be 50 years old to get involved. In fact, many of these same young people are the new entrepreneurs we are looking to grow and attract. They are the future leaders of our community, and we need to encourage them and allow them a seat at the table to be heard. They have great ideas and passion.
I know this firsthand. More than half of our team that produces Business Report, 225, inRegister, our websites, special publications and events—are under 40. I'm proud of them all.
We look forward to celebrating with the 2011 honorees this week at our sold-out Forty Under 40 event. The energy in the room is always amazing—and inspiring.
Time to be thankful
Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving. Living in America, we all have much to be thankful for. But there are those who are less fortunate, and at this time of year many are ever mindful of helping others because of the Christmas spirit and the season of giving. Baton Rouge is a generous community. Whether you choose to give through United Way, the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, your church or synagogue, or maybe decide to take your children and serve meals at St. Vincent de Paul or Holiday Helpers, this is a great time to reach out to others and share what God has blessed us with. And because we live in America, the greatest nation on Earth, we can all count our blessings.
comments powered by Disqus
Real estate recap: DPW reorganization recommendations coming … Capital Region home sales post 5% gain in February … WWII bombing range near Hammond at center of new lawsuit
A cautious comeback