A majority of Lafayette Parish School Board members are dead-set on destroying the school system — content to watch it burn while they are no longer in office.
November elections will likely remove a number of the current board members and a couple of others probably won't even be on the ballot, which means they won’t be politically impacted by the votes they are casting today. The result of what happens with this year’s budget process, which could very well mean a complete dismantling of the turnaround plan and termination of hundreds of school employees, will be left on the shoulders of a new school board seated in January.
Among those plotting the takedown of the system, a sort of revenge tactic aimed at Superintendent Pat Cooper, are Mark Allen Babineaux, who’s planning to run for a district judgeship; Rae Trahan, who faces a tough re-election battle from two challengers, Brian West and Jeremy Hidalgo, if she even decides to run; board president Hunter Beasley, who has stiff competition from businessman Erick Knezek for his District 8 seat; Tommy Angelle (who knows what he will do?); and Greg Awbrey, who has been noncommittal on whether he will seek re-election.
These lame duck board members won't go quietly.
Case in point: their inability to deal with this year’s $23.5 million budget deficit and refusal to dip into the school system’s $66 million reserve fund.
The end game will be a massive blood-letting of school system employees, which means a staff reduction of about 300 employees, including more than 100 teachers.
These cuts will result in student-teacher ratios increasing from 23:1 to 26:1 for K-third grade, 25:1 to 28:1 in fourth through fifth grade, and 28:1 to 33:1 for sixth through 12th grade. Thirty-three students to one teacher. Yes, you are reading this correctly.
It’s the superintendent’s responsibility to draft the school system’s budget, and the board’s role is to either approve or deny the superintendent’s proposal. Yet, our school board members have taken it upon themselves, as seen with Thursday night’s special meeting, to offer their own genius suggestions for piecemeal cuts.
Board member Babineaux suggested cutting $495,000 out of the school system’s travel fund. That money, however, had already been cut.
The majority of their suggestions, so far, have been aimed at the central office, but that’s not going to solve the problem.
“They could cut out the whole central office, me included, and that’s only $5.5 million and they’d still have $18 million to cut from the schools,” says Cooper. “Central office makes up less than 2 percent of our entire budget, and they know there’s no other place to cut. The only place left to go is the classroom.”
That could be avoided. Cooper, in his original budget proposal, requested the board approve dipping into the school system’s $66 million reserve fund. Because his request was denied, Cooper was forced to present the board with a balanced budget that would result in about 300 terminations, which in addition to teachers, would include instructional strategists, assistant principals, social workers, counselors, data analysts, school safety officers and others.
“With everything the state’s requiring now with data collection and response to intervention and positive data support, for the teachers, that’s easily an extra 10 hours of work every week, and that’s not counting discipline problems,” explains Cooper. “This is going to hit the teachers from all sides. And if those teachers have that many extra students in their classrooms, without the extra help, those poor teachers are going to get killed. It’s just way too many kids to be in a classroom, especially with as big a population of at-risk kids as we have.”
In opposing the use of the reserve fund to plug the budget gap, the board argues that such action today will lead to an exhaustion of the $66 million fund.
Those are scare tactics.
When Cooper arrived in 2012, the board’s policy maintained that the reserve fund only had to cover the school system’s expenses for 2.5 months. After last year’s budget process, the board voted to increase that period to three months.
If the board would approve Cooper’s request to fill this year’s budget deficit, the reserve fund would still be at $54 million, which is the exact amount in the reserve upon Cooper’s arrival.
“We’re actually getting more property and sales taxes, but now that we’re getting more, they’re saying, ‘We can’t use any unless it’s over the three-month marker,’” explains Cooper. “All we’re asking this year is to go back to 2.5 months. That’s a perfectly fine reserve, better than most. But they’re keeping us from those dollars so we can’t fund anything. The real problem isn’t just the turnaround plan. As long as we don’t have a budget, we can’t hire teachers, and there’s no reason to do this except for politics. To me, if you’re holding us up like that from getting our dollars, you’re hurting the kids and the teachers, and I find that to be pretty reprehensible.”
It is reprehenisible.
And it is past time for the public to let these school board members know they can't get by with it.
Co-founder Ryan Trahan goes solo to keep it local.
Halliburton's agreement to pay more than $1 billion to settle numerous claims involving the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill could be a way for the company and victims of the spill to avoid years of costly litigation — if all the pieces fall into place.
BP says it recently obtained correspondence between Patrick Juneau's Lafayette law firm and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility showing he argued for liberal compensation, flexible documentation requirements and other terms that would help Louisiana claimants at BP's expense.
The circumstances surrounding the death last March while in the backseat of a sheriff’s cruiser of Victor White III, long a source of dispute by White’s family, have earned an investigation by federal officials.
Lafayette patio home or Port Barre waterfront cottage
With six of the LPSB’s nine members poised for Pat Cooper’s termination, a request was filed Tuesday for a fast-tracked hearing on the federal lawsuit calling for the disqualification of two board members from voting on the matter due to bias.
A few of my favorite things
Louisiana's Republican Party has filed a complaint against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu with the Senate's ethics committee about her use of private chartered planes.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
An attorney signs up to run against LPSB's Mark Cockerham, and within a week a lawsuit is filed by a former LPSS employee in an attempt to disqualify him. Coincidence?
According to Gov. Bobby Jindal, President Barack Obama needs to stop talking about “justice” and start murdering people, even if we have to go alone.
A replacement is expected by January to fill the vacancy left when Greg Roberts resigned after allegedly pointing a fake gun at an engineer during a June meeting.
The Ragin’ Cajuns got off to a superb start Saturday night, and the Human Jukebox made the soaked season opener even sweeter for the third-largest crowd in Cajun Field history.
The Louisiana health department will follow a federal judge's order and refrain from immediately penalizing doctors who are trying to comply with a new abortion law that requires them to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, a spokeswoman said Monday.
Halliburton says it has agreed to pay $1.1 billion to settle a substantial portion of plaintiff claims arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
While bogged down with qualifying candidates last month, Secretary of State Tom Schedler didn’t lose sight of the true endgame coming in November and December.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Stoned driving a concern when pot is legal; Detroit's bankruptcy trial; speed trap scandal in Florida and more national and international news for Tuesday, September 02, 2014.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The Houston firm said Friday in its weekly report that 1,575 rigs were exploring for oil and 338 for gas. One was listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,776 active rigs.
A crew began erecting the 25-foot mini-wheel late morning Friday in anticipation of the evening’s Hottest Night of the Year party at the park.
Frances Boothe of Nunez, who also happens to be filmmaker Stephen Meaux’s grandmother, prepares a cool-weather fave.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
New Iberia colonial or Broussard traditional home
The LPSB is poised and ready to move forward with the termination of Pat Cooper following a discussion Thursday with the attorney hired for the investigation of the superintendent, but a decision of this magnitude should be left up to the new board seated in January, especially with three pro-investigation board members bailing out come the new year.
Fiery style for game day
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.