Youngsville Mayor Wilson Viator is giving the Lafayette Parish School System an ultimatum: Commit to building new schools in Youngsville by the end of the summer, or else ...
“I’m not threatening anybody, but I feel if I don’t do something about the schools, then I’m not doing my job,” Viator said Thursday during a phone interview with The Advertiser. “Pulling out the school system is a last-resort alternative, but if the school system doesn’t get off their can and start building some schools in Youngsville, then I’m going to pursue that.”
Viator told both dailies Thursday that overcrowding in Youngsville’s three schools is a critical issue that needs immediate attention, an assertion LPSS Superintendent Pat Cooper does not contest. According to The Advocate, more than half of the classrooms for the 900 students at Green T. Lindon Elementary School are housed in portable buildings, while Ernest Gallet Elementary teaches almost 1,200 students in a school built for 750.
But if Viator’s threat to breakaway from the Lafayette Parish School System was sincerely a “last-resort” for much-needed new schools, then why did he first float the idea several weeks ago at the Youngsville Chamber of Commerce banquet instead of addressing the problem directly with Cooper and the Lafayette Parish School Board?
Youngsville has established itself as a flourishing white-flight destination in Lafayette Parish, and the timing of Viator’s remarks comes amid heated debate in the state Legislature over breakaway school districts in East Baton Rouge Parish, where predominately white communities like Central have successfully seceded from the East Baton Rouge Parish School System in recent years. Coincidence?
Cooper has committed to finding a fix for the overcrowding problem, according to the dailies, which may include using some of the $30 million in bonds that was slated for Thibodaux Tech High School. And if Youngsville were to move forward with plans to break away from LPSS, it would take a two-thirds vote of the Legislature next year and voter approval of a Constitutional Amendment.
As Red Stick Forward writer Slater McKay notes in a column published on The Political Desk website, “if the Legislature accelerates these breakaway districts to the point of having an overabundance of local school districts that are surprisingly homogenous by choice, there’s a good chance the federal government will step in to remind us (once again) of the difference between Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education.”