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ACTION Center Response - Thursday, May 28, 2009
LSBA ACTION Center Response

(Louisiana School Boards Association –

A key piece of legislation for purported school board reform, House Bill 851 by Representatives Carter and Hardy, was approved, with arm-twisting by the Governor’s Office, last week by a 10-6 vote of the House Education Committee. The proposal heads next to the full House of Representatives for consideration. This legislation is at the heart of a movement to give single parties who are not publicly elected by the people virtually dictatorial control over public schools.

HB 851 provides relative to the powers, duties, functions, and responsibilities of city, parish, and other local school boards. Chambers of Commerce are rallying the business community to support the bill. One feature of their support calls for requiring a two-thirds majority vote by school boards to hire or fire a superintendent.

A super majority rule gives a minority of the Board a "weighted" advantage in voting. Mathematically, it equates to a vote-and-a-half since a 33% minority could muster up the voting strength of the usually required 50% majority. This method of voting blatently violates one of the basic tenants of democracy, "one man-one vote".

It is interesting to observe that the backers of the proposal purport to represent the interests of the broad business community. How many businesses would be governed by a requirement for a supermajority vote?

Institutional Shareholder Services estimates that only about 40 percent of the roughly 2,000 of the most widely traded U.S. companies require super-majorities to change their charters or bylaws.

Which companies have already seen a super-majority showdown? A shareholder proposal to abandon supermajority vote requirements at IBM passed with 61.6 percent of the vote. Another at Lockheed Martin passed with 57 percent, while a shareholder proposal at Goodyear Tire & Rubber sailed through at 73 percent.

If business is so convinced that supermajority vote of school boards is vital to change, then why is it that the leaders of American business are turning away from such requirements?

It is important that stakeholders who value their community schools let their legislators know that this is part of a wide-spread attack on public schools and that removal of checks and balances in the governance is liable to protect the ill-advised superintendent as well as the good ones.


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