A Lafayette civic group is urging the school board to hold off on putting a property-tax proposition before voters until a long-term choice for superintendent is in place and school system administrators submit an educational plan that addresses low graduation rates, especially among low-income and minority students, as well as the achievement gap. The group, 100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette, is also asking the Lafayette Parish School Board to embrace accountability and transparency.

The Lafayette Parish School System’s Citizens’ Oversight Committee last week recommended that the board vote to place a property tax proposition on a fall ballot. Based on the Facilities Master Plan developed by a Baton Rouge planning firm and adopted by the board, Lafayette Parish taxpayers are looking at a $1.1 billion bill to upgrade, renovate and, in some cases, replace aging, dilapidated school facilities. The 21-member COC last week recommended that the board first ask taxpayers to approve a $600 million portion of the overall bill.

In what is at once an open letter to the board and a press release complete with several charts focusing on the lagging graduation rates among low-income and minority students, 100 Black Men makes its case for deferring the tax proposition, referencing research indicating that a 95 percent graduation rate for all students in attainable:

The Citizens’ Oversight Committee of the Lafayette Parish School System voted to recommend a tax proposition for the October or November ballot of this year.
100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette is asking the Lafayette Parish School Board to defer this recommendation until it does the following.

1. Declare who will lead our school system as Superintendent for the long term. Taxpayers deserve to know who will be responsible for the execution of a multi-million dollar facility improvement plan if the tax should pass.
2. Provide the taxpayers an Education Plan that explains how our system will show remarkable improvements in education outcomes to include graduation rates, academic achievement and the closure of the achievement gaps by race and income with yearly benchmarks.
3. Develop and commit to a system of transparency that connects education outcomes to performance and supports accountability through the publication of performance outcomes on the LPSS website.

We encourage our school leaders to reach out to the taxpayers of Lafayette Parish for a timely discussion about expectations over the next five years regarding education outcomes. We believe that this discussion should be led by a Superintendent who is committed to our system for the long term.
Currently, Superintendent Burnell Lemoine is serving on a short-term contract that may or may not be renewed in the coming weeks.

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