BATON ROUGE, La. — A lawsuit brought by more than a dozen Louisiana residents trying to remove the state’s public schools superintendent from office was dismissed Monday by a state district judge.
The lawsuit claimed Superintendent of Education John White needed to be reconfirmed by the Louisiana Senate to continue holding the position, which oversees policy decisions that affect more than 700,000 public school students.
Baton Rouge-based Judge William Morvant said only a handful of elected officials have the legal ability to file such a court petition. The Advocate reports that Morvant said that list includes Gov. John Bel Edwards, Attorney General Jeff Landry, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore or Senate President John Alario. None of those men were involved in the filing.
Morvant’s ruling followed an hour-long hearing Monday. After the decision, state Sen. John Milkovich, the Keithville Democrat who represents the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said he and his clients are considering their legal options.
White issued a statement about the ruling on Twitter: “As I have said from the start, I will continue to serve the children of Louisiana until (the state education board) tells me not to. School is starting in a month. It’s time to shift our attention from the courtroom to the classroom, where it belongs.”
White was appointed by the 11-member Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and approved by the Senate in 2012, but since then a new board has been elected.
The lawsuit argued that because White wasn’t reappointed by the education board or reconfirmed by the Senate, his post should be declared vacant. White’s supporters said since he wasn’t reappointed by the education board but continued without interruption in the job, Senate confirmation wasn’t required.
Morvant didn’t rule on the merits of the legal argument.
The lead plaintiff in the petition filed is Ganey Arsement, a Calcasieu Parish public school teacher with two children in Louisiana public schools.
The education board hires and fires superintendents, a decision that requires a two-thirds vote. White’s opponents, including the governor, lack the eight board votes needed to fire him. White’s supporters don’t have the eight votes required to enter into a new contract with him so he’s been working on a month-to-month basis since the board’s term began in January 2016.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com