Prior to Louisiana’s 1973 Constitutional Convention, education at all levels in Louisiana except Louisiana State University was governed by a single State Board of Education. The Louisiana Superintendent of Public Education was an elected position which also served as ex-officio secretary to the State Board; the superintendent was also the chief state school officer for elementary and secondary education.

The 1973 Constitutional Convention revised the previous constitution’s Chapter XII concerning "Public Education," along with the vast number of amendments which had been added over a 50-year period. Louisiana’s 1974 Constitution established a new Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) as a constitutionally-created administrative body for elementary and secondary schools. BESE was also made the governing board for vocational-technical education, for special schools, and for units in Special School Districts 1 and 2.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education held its first meeting on May 1, 1975, in the A. D. Smith Auditorium in the State Department of Education in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Its 11 members served six-year overlapping terms. In 1984, the terms were shortened and made concurrent with the four-year term of the governor. In 1988, the State Superintendent of Education became an appointed position under BESE.

Initially, eight of BESE’s 11 members were elected from Louisiana’s eight congressional districts. However, as a result of the 1990 Census, Louisiana lost one congressional district. Since Louisiana’s constitution requires that eight BESE members be elected from single-member districts, the state created eight new BESE districts from which eight members are now elected.

In 1999, BESE’s authority for post-secondary vocational/technical education was transferred to a newly created board within the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS).

The Louisiana State Legislature approved reapportionment plans for BESE in 1992, in 1997, and again in 2001.