[Editor's note: After Thursday night’s directive from the Lafayette Parish School Board to push for the final adoption of what many consider a fatally flawed budget — one that would lead to massive across-the-board cuts and possible violations of state and federal laws — Superintendent Pat Cooper responded Friday by issuing the following statement outlining the reasons why he wouldn't be complying with the board's instructions:]
The children’s education is the most important goal that any of us should have. Six members of the Lafayette Parish School Board have directed me as superintendent to begin the process of advertising a version of the 2014-2015 budget that those members have prepared. I am declining to undertake that directive because it is contrary to the best interest of the children. In addition, it is also a directive that goes against recognized policy and procedure and one that could ultimately end up causing violation of state and federal laws and causing disproportionate harm to the poor and minority students as well as the school district as a whole.
|Superintendent Pat Cooper: "Why would I as superintendent advertise a budget that I know is unlawful? How is the public to be expected to review a false budget?"|
In Act 1 of the 2012 legislative session, the responsibility for assuring that all state school laws are complied with was switched from the local school board to the superintendent. I, as superintendent, have a duty to not only protect the school board, but also the thousands of employees and thousands of students from the repercussions of breaking federal and state law or policy of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and/or the Louisiana Department of Education rules and regulations.
The budget that those six members of the Lafayette Parish School Board are directing me to advertise is replete with flaws, including unlawful cuts and off-the-cuff decisions that lead to shortages of dollars that are required to do the business of educating our children, taking care of the needs of the disabled, and enhancing our programs for our highest performing students. I, in good conscious and in respect for the law and the public, with whom I must maintain trust, cannot proceed with the adoption process when I do not believe the document is a fair and honest representation. Why would I as superintendent advertise a budget that I know is unlawful? How is the public to be expected to review a false budget?
There is also a more apparent legal side of this process that clearly instructs and guides me to not advertise the budget the board is proposing. It is procedural and continues to be misunderstood by the board and their legal counsel. According to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, the budget that is to be advertised is the superintendent’s budget, not a budget that has been conceived by the board. The board has been made aware of this numerous times to no avail. As late as this morning [Friday] we have spoken to the legal section of the Legislative Auditor’s office and this requirement has been verified once again.
What is next is that I will work with the finance department to develop a detailed balanced budget to be advertised. That process could take up to a week since the board has not allowed any of my budgets to go forward. I will then place it on a future meeting agenda to get board approval to advertise.
As far as the students and teachers are concerned, we will continue utilizing 50 percent of the most recently amended previous year’s budget to provide a quality educational experience until, and if, a new budget is adopted.
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