BATON ROUGE -- More than half the seats on Louisiana's top school board are on the Oct. 12 primary ballot, which means the direction of public schools in the state could be in for a big change.

Around the state, 20 candidates are running for seven seats on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Some of the challengers argue that the state needs to roll back key parts of new policies put in place since 2012, including those on charter school and voucher operations.

Voters in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes will choose a District 3 candidate. Incumbent Sandy Holloway of Thibodaux, retired director of a charter school, is being challenged by fellow Republican Janice Perea, a fourth-grade teacher in Houma.

District 3 covers parts of Pointe Coupee, St. Landry, St. Martin and Iberia parishes and along the state's southeast coast.

Holloway said the state has made gains in improving early childhood education and better preparing teachers by requiring them to spend one year in the classroom working with teacher mentors during their senior year of college.

Holloway, 65, has been endorsed by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and said she plans to spend about $50,000 on her campaign.

On charter schools and vouchers, she said, "Whatever the parents feel is appropriate for them."

Perea, 39, said BESE needs the presence of public school educators. "The reforms that have been put in place by John White and others, they are just not working," she said.

Perea offered support for nonprofit charter schools but opposes for-profit charters.

She criticized vouchers. "Just to take the money to go to a private school on taxpayer money, I don't find that acceptable," she said.

She said she plans to spend about $50,000 in her bid for BESE. She has been endorsed by the LFT and LAE.

Across the state, three other incumbents are facing challenges, including Metairie attorney Jim Garvey, the longest-serving BESE member, Holly Boffy of Lafayette, and Kira Orange Jones, a New Orleans educator who is running for her third term after surviving a residency challenge.

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, or LABI, which has backed sweeping changes in public schools, has endorsed a slate of candidates.

On the other side, the state's two teachers unions -- the Louisiana Association of Educators, known as LAE, and Louisiana Federation of Teachers, or LFT -- have endorsed near-identical slates of their own.

BESE sets policies for 719,000 public school students statewide, including how teachers are trained and evaluated, when charter schools are approved or closed, what students are taught and how they are tested.

The 11-member board includes eight elected by voters. Three members are named by the governor.

BESE member Tony Davis, who lives in Natchitoches, was re-elected in August when no one filed against him.