We started up Citizens for a New Louisiana because the public is busy. People just don’t have the time to keep up with the hundreds of moving parts in local and state government. In fact, the legacy news media has been shrinking at such a pace that they, too, are no longer paying much attention to local and state issues. It’s all human interest and evergreen content, sprinkled in with an occasional news piece heavily slanted toward leftist politics.
By the way, we aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed this trend. Top Ranked Valarie Hodges (R 9/10) recently told me that “Without [Citizens for a New Louisiana] and what they do nobody knows anything except what the elite leftists media wants them to know. Thank GOD for their answering the call to be our voice to the state.” By “our voice” she means a voice for sanity, both socially and fiscally.
Who’s who in the BESE 7 race
We aren’t going to look at all of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) races. Mostly this is because the only questions I’ve received here at Citizens are about district 7. If you didn’t know, BESE is the governing body over the state department of education. They set policy that ends up trickling down to local school boards. Similar to a school board, they are also tasked with hiring of a state superintendent. That person is Dr. Cade Brumley, whom we like very much. They also have the power to approve Charter Schools if a School Board refuses to do so (as was the case in Lafayette Parish a few years ago).
So, here’s what we know about each of the candidates. Some have more history than others. For that, I apologize. Some of these will appear a bit thin, while one in particular we know quite a bit about.
- Erick Knezek
- Cathy Banks
- Kevin Berken
I recently met with Erick over breakfast at Dwyer’s in downtown Lafayette. He’s a personable fellow. We had a great chat about all things conservative. He even admitted that he’s made quite a number of errors or blunders in his time dabbling in politics. We covered a few things which he’d do differently, if given the chance. There’s an old saying from the investment industry: past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. However, having nothing else to go on, it is what it is.
Almost four years ago, Erick Knezek made an unsuccessful run for the RPEC (Republican Parish Executive Committee) in Lafayette. During that process he touted his “lifelong Republican” status along with his service as a veteran and former school board member (who didn’t seek re-election). Erick Knezek, was supposedly running to make the Republican Party more conservative. However, Erick had recently endorsed no-party Carlee Alm-LaBar over all three Republican candidates in the previous Lafayette Mayor-President’s race. We wrote about this previously in Team Carlee’s revenge. Erick acknowledged the error at breakfast.
Erick also voted to levy an unnecessary $238 million in new taxes while he was on the school board. This was in spite of our discovery that the “overcrowding” problem was created by the school board’s own policies. After the tax failed, School Board President, Dawn Morris, noted that the school board was “overcrowding schools voluntarily!” She said, “It’s crazy that we put all those commercials on TV about those kids running from the temporary buildings in the rain… but we’re sending those kids to those schools voluntarily. It’s not even their zoned schools.”
An article on the Current (seventh paragraph) suggests that Erick was running to further special rights for the LGBT lifestyle in Lafayette. Similarly, and quite recently, the hard-left brigade on Reddit made the very same observation. Knezek was proud enough of the Current article to post it with a long comment (which has since been deleted) on his Facebook page. One of his last actions as a school board member in 2019 (item 4.1) was to author a new school board policy creating a special, protected classification for LGBT youth, including transgenders.
The Advocate also published an article at the time, quoting Knezek quite thoroughly. While his Facebook post is no longer available, the Advocate’s reporting quotes him as follows:
“LGBTQ youth have a right to attend schools without having to fear for their safety or the threat of psychological intimidation or physical harm,” the resolution said. “LGBTQ youth should feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment and be allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect without discrimination or prejudice.”
Knezek said after the vote he was proud of the board for passing the resolution. He said it’s important to have courage and discuss difficult issues, because otherwise opposing viewpoints will never be resolved and progress is impossible.
“We did the right thing. … It’s a very uncomfortable subject, and it’s hard for people to vote one way or the other because like Dr. Chassion said, whether you vote for it or against it or you don’t vote at all, you’re angering somebody,” he said.
The board member said he thinks the school board’s action could provide political cover for other elected bodies to pass other LGBTQ-positive or affirming items.
Knezek said the resolution was directly inspired by the previous LCG vote. In June, a close LGBTQ friend approached him and expressed “the suffering and honestly the disgust” he felt after the Lafayette city-parish council in June failed to pass Kenneth Boudreaux’s resolution recognizing June as Pride Month.
He pursued this policy even though the national transgender student movement at the time had all but obliterated girls’ sports. In fact, Selina Soule, who had been struggling to compete with biological males entering her sport, had a Life Site News petition with 415,491 signatures. It calls for legislation to prevent this travesty from ever happening to another girl in the United States. Republican Louisiana State Senator Beth Mizell (R 8/10) had already answered that call by introducing legislation in 2020 to prevent this from happening to girls in our local school systems. After numerous attempts, Mizell’s SB44, “the Fairness in Womens Sports Act,” finally became law in 2022.
As a PhD in Divinity, Cathy Banks has also been the subject of ire by the hard-left Redditers. Hers is the same degree held by prolific author and speaker, Dr. Joyce Myer. However, the fact that she’s a Christian Conservative means she’s a threat to their dark agenda. If you didn’t already know about and like Dr. Banks before, this one Reddit post should be enough to get your attention. After all, when I’m defending our children against government funded transgender propaganda and erotica in the library, these Redditers are the people who show up. They disrupt public meetings, viciously attack Christians, and otherwise attempt to silence anyone who wants to protect our kids. Some of these activists even have fugitive warrants out for their arrest.
Cathy Banks comes from real Southwest Louisiana, in the Lake Charles area. She’s an active member of her local Republican Women’s club, and has been encouraged by Republican Women’s groups across the district. In addition to being an entrepreneur, educator, and author, she’s also a pastor at Living Word Christian Center.
I had the opportunity to meet Cathy Banks briefly at a Republican Women’s meeting in Jennings. She was also a speaker at one of our “Secret Lunch” meetings. At that meeting she shared her experience setting up new schools in Africa. This included writing / selecting curriculum and other related matters.
She’s also been in and around the state Capitol during session, advocating for education reform. Her reform passion appears to be focused on the very bottom of the list – the students who are most often left behind and abandoned by the system. That’s also where there is the greatest opportunity for improvement.
I’ve also had the privilege of meeting with Kevin Berken at a lunch gathering. He’s been a long standing member of the Republican State Central Committee (RSCC). If you aren’t familiar with the RSCC, it’s the governing body of the state Republican Party. They recruit, endorse, raise, and spend money on Republican candidates for public office.
The state Republican Party has been moving in a more Constitutional Conservative direction these last several years. Endorsing Jeff Landry for Governor early has drawn some criticism but a lot more praise. After all, the public has been clamoring for decades for the Republican Party to “just pick a candidate.” The party has also made other strong endorsements in the race for state Treasurer and a few others.
Although his campaign imagery focuses on his agricultural background, Berken is running for BESE on a bulleted list of things most conservatives can get behind.
- School Choice
- Better pay for teachers
- Empowering Parents
- No “Woke” CRT (Critical Race Theory)
- More Civic Education
- Better Reading and Math Skills
His Facebook page is filled with standard campaign imagery, including photos with the who’s who of the state’s conservative movement.
There you have it
So, there’s someone for everyone in the race. If you’re a woke activist, member or fan of the conservative movement, or just want someone to fix education, you should be able to identify a like-minded candidate.