It was like a tale of two cities Thursday night for Lafayette Parish School System.
|LPSB member Mark Allen Babineaux|
At the LITE Center a group of about 80 civic and business leaders gathered to unveil a report called “Common Vision for Our Future,” which lays out 12 priorities for the superintendent and school board, including a renewed focus on the school system’s 100% In/100% Out turnaround plan, early childhood education, school wellness programs and student-based initiatives.
Across the highway, however, inside the school system offices, a much different story played out as Superintendent Pat Cooper and the school board attempted to hammer out a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
The school system is faced with a budget deficit of more than $18 million (with about $70 million in its reserve fund). Despite Cooper's suggestion that the board dip into its rainy day fund to keep the turnaround plan alive, the board voted 6-3 against the idea.
Since Cooper took over as superintendent in 2012, some board members have been setting up roadblocks wherever possible to undermine the success of the turnaround plan.
But perhaps the most flagrant attack on the turnaround plan came with a set of suggested budget cuts recently submitted to the school system from board member Mark Allen Babineaux. (Read more on Babineaux's resistance here.)
“We need to take a ‘picture’ of what we were doing before the ‘turnaround’ plan was initiated, take count of how many people were doing what and at what cost and use that as a benchmark to start any cuts or reduction in force,” writes Babineaux in his letter dated May 30.
So Babineaux wants to gut the turnaround plan and revert to a status quo that existed before Cooper’s arrival, when the school system was C-rated.
His suggested cutbacks include doing away with the health and wellness program (a key component of the turnaround plan), the community relations department, the mental health department, new textbooks for getting the school system in line with the new Common Core curriculum, and a complete dissolution of the alternative program at N.P. Moss.
In response to Babineaux’s suggestions, Cooper — who starts out by noting that some of Babineaux's suggestions would violate state and federal laws — writes:
I would ask the question of motivation to Mr. Babineaux. Is it quality education or some other reason for suggesting that we break state and federal law by not providing an alternative site thereby making life more difficult for teachers by sending the troubled students back into the regular classrooms to disrupt instruction?
Do you really want to cut out a very successful Community Relations Department that has done more to give transparency to the system than any other single thing?
Do you really want no textbooks and materials to carry us into common core?
Too many of our children are sick, mentally, emotionally, physically, and you want to cut out what is some of their only access to health care? We have had several suicide attempts and many threats, and you do not want us to provide for our children’s mental health needs even though experts agree that is the most troubling problem for our youth?
As I stated in the beginning, some board members thoughtfully approached the task at hand, but these requests from Mr. Babineaux are absurd. I sincerely hope that we can keep personal animosity out of deciding what our children, teachers, and employees need and deserve.
We reached out to Babineaux hoping for an explanation (actually we wanted to know if he was serious or if his letter was some kind of sick joke), but Babineaux called our question “petty” and hung up the phone.
So we're left to wonder: Just what is Mark Allen Babineaux smoking?
It wouldn’t be a first, however, as the Chamber has thrown money behind Landrieu before.
The Democratic incumbent, seeking her fourth term in office, is a strong supporter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance exports of U.S. companies.
The world is a politically tense place these days with hot spots ranging from the Middle East to Ukraine. In Louisiana and Mississippi, where the political chessboard tends to be a lot less threatening and at times entertaining, this election season is living up to expectations.
American companies export smog; UN calls for cease-fire in Gaza; fist bump keeps germ transfer down and more national and international news for Monday, July 28, 2014.
Monday's Blogs from the Bog!
Louisiana has joined nine other states in support of Indiana’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that the Hoosier State’s ban on sam-sex marriage violates the Constitution.
The Saints are being cautious in an effort to minimize risk of re-injury.
LSU Health Sciences Center says people with a common, hard-to-treat kind of lung cancer can join a new national trial to test drugs faster.
As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
The family of fallen cyclist Lon Lomas is speaking out after the release this week of the man charged with his death.
"The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.
The latest meeting of a south Louisiana flood board that stirred political turmoil with a lawsuit against the oil and gas industry is taking place amid uncertainty over the future of the lawsuit — and the board's own membership.
The photos taken nearly a mile under the Gulf of Mexico are so clear that small holes are visible in a lifeboat that may have gone down or been scuttled when a passenger ship was sunk by a Nazi submarine in 1942.
Advocate columnist and Jindal shill Quin Hillyer has been against the New Orleans levee board lawsuit from day one, but a recent piece targeting author/activist John Barry prompted the perfect rebuttal from the board’s former vice-president, who takes Hillyer to task on just about every distorted claim he’s made on the issue.
Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could top 10 percent.
Louisiana fell one spot in an annual national ranking of child well-being that looks at poverty, education and health access.
A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license.
Saints again bring playoff aspirations into 2014 campaign.
New details in the case against the man arrested for last week’s bomb threat and bank robbery has surfaced, including a MidSouth Bank surveillance video showing the alleged suspect attempt an early-morning bank robbery.
Parents and teachers who support the Common Core education standards sued Gov. Bobby Jindal Tuesday over his actions against the multi-state standards, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy.
An arrest was announced this morning in connection with last week’s bomb scare at UL Lafayette.
Attorneys, judges and others interviewed by LaPolitics expect 15 to 20 district judge races this year.
"I feel like I'm under siege," an attorney said recently over drinks at Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge. "We all do. Every time I turn around somebody wants a check. District attorney races. The judges. They're killing us."
As a requirement for running for Congress in the 6th District, former Gov. Edwin Edwards has filed his financial disclosure statement with the U.S. House showing his income in 2013 totaling $242,787.