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Louisiana State Chamber supports school superintendent in standoff with Gov. John Edwards

August 6, 2017
By John Sammon
Originally Posted on The Louisiana Record

BATON ROUGE — A now-dismissed lawsuit has pitted Louisiana Gov. John Edwards against Louisiana’s Schools Superintendent John White, with Edwards claiming that White did not follow the proper requirements for keeping his job.

The current legal standoff has observers waiting to see if the governor will seek legal action to deal with White.

“So far the governor has not intervened,” Bridget T. Nieland, vice president of education and workforce development for the Louisiana Association of Business & Industry, told the Louisiana Record.

Edwards, who has been a vocal opponent of White, said the state schools chief needed to be reconfirmed by the Louisiana Senate to continue his term, which hasn’t happened. In an interview last month, he indicated he might seek legal action against White.

White was appointed by an 11-member Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), and approved by the state Senate in 2012 before Edwards became governor. Replacing White requires a two-thirds vote of the board, but that body currently lacks the eight votes needed. White has been serving on a month-to-month basis without a new contract since January 2016.

Local residents filed a lawsuit calling for White’s reconfirmation, but the suit was dismissed last month by 19th District Judicial Court Judge William Morvant, who ruled that the plaintiffs did not have proper legal standing to pursue such a petition, and that only a few elected officials could do so—one of whom is Edwards.

Edwards and his education union backers have been critical of White’s expansion of school vouchers and charter schools in Louisiana as well as his performance on financial and procedural matters. White currently represents approximately 700,000 students in Louisiana.

Nieland said her organization is adopting a wait-and-see stance for now.

“We’re waiting to see if the governor will come up with his own suit,” she said.

Nieland said the Louisiana Association of Business & Industry supports White’s continued tenure in the position as the state's school chief.

“We hope the judge continues to decide in favor of Superintendent White,” she said. “We’re against the governor’s position on this issue. We believe the policies of Superintendent White on the State Board of Education have produced meaningful results, and we support school choice for parents.”