by Elliott Stonecipher
The (relatively) hot news leading into this column is that some 36,000 Louisianans have registered to vote since August 1st, presumably in preparation for voting in our November 4th elections. The most interesting thing about them is that one-half did not register as Democrats or Republicans. They registered as independents or other party affiliates.
Here’s why this may be important. One-in-four – 25.1%, to be precise – Louisiana’s voter registrants have heretofore signed-up as independents and others, or more to the point, not Democrats or Republicans. So, in this particular season of our voter discontent, two times as many people are checking it to the major parties and striking out on their electoral own.
More and more of us here and elsewhere in America have learned that our two-party system is unable to do anything about how bad “things” are, and how much worse they get each day. Registering as an independent logically expresses our growing anger and concern, if not fear.
It would be easy at this point to break off into a discussion of the record-low approval ratings of our U. S. Congress, and, more broadly, our federal government. Instead, right here in our own River City, we should spend a moment thinking about our Caddo Parish School Board.
Back in 2012, I wrote a column about our local schools, wrapping the piece in the fabric of changes in public education which were then being engineered by our state government. It struck a chord, to say the least. Few such articles I have written evoked more – or more meaningful – response.
Our dilemma – and community pain – feels ancient. Too many parents choose not to invest in the educations of their children, and our public school system employs too many who act with like indifference. No matter the number of years we have suffered our public education dis-ease, and no matter how much money we have thrown at the problem, we have found no remedy.
We are thus deeply invested in our Caddo Parish School Board’s failure to provide one of the most basic public functions.
Now, with less than two weeks before election day, it is time to change that. It is time to REFORM the Caddo Parish School Board, then the failures within the system’s unelected leadership.
Reform comes only from newly elected leaders, by definition. Too many members cling to their board seats as if they will die without them. Such is an ugly and awful thing to watch in elected officials, as we are now doing – again – in some of these campaigns.
Putting aside for this purpose how such came to be, there are many candidates running for these school board seats, a pronounced rarity here. They stand at ground zero in what we say we want.
Have there been some good and decent and hard-working school board members? Absolutely. Have they been able to make the necessary difference? Absolutely not. Some are my friends, and they have heard such from me in personal conversations. They, each and every one, agree with this assessment of our awful reality – and profess abject powerlessness in doing anything about it.
Now, though, anti-reform incumbents have opponents. It is not my job or intention here to tell anyone who to vote for, rather I can say this: if you live in Caddo Parish, and if you profess to care about the education of our children, make it your business to find out if there is a qualified challenger in your district for whom you can vote.
For a long time, I could not say or write this, because “qualified challengers” have been rare for these positions. Now, this is on us. This is not one more time when our community inaction curses us. This is not one more time when no one “good” is on the ballot.
If you don’t know who is running, call your friends and any others you trust to find out who is, or search-up the names in local news reports on the subject. If an incumbent seems to be the correct choice after your due diligence, remember that the imperative is REFORM. If you believe your incumbent is a reformer, then you must also believe he or she simply has been powerless in finding a way to provoke reform.
As in the Shreveport mayor’s race, there are strong and ill winds blowing over and into our governmental future, as has been the case for far too many years. In the case of the Caddo Parish School Board, though, we can now leap toward reform.
The next step is yours and mine, and we have no excuses. Others have done the heavy lifting.
The only unanswered questions are whether we really want reform, and if we care enough to act.
Elliott Stonecipher’s reports and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is appreciated.