Equity has never been a built-in component of consolidation when it comes to the cost of government in Lafayette Parish, and if City-Parish President Joey Durel is right, the “parish” part of consolidated government has sponged off the city of Lafayette to the tune of roughly $32 million since the parish and city governments merged in 1996. But in his budget address to the council last week, Durel indicated that the days of the city shouldering the burden for the parish should come to an end. Everyone in Lafayette Parish — in the unincorporated areas as well as the municipalities including Lafayette — is a parish resident and pays parish property taxes to fund the sheriff, jail, parish courthouse and infrastructure in rural Lafayette Parish. Currently the ratio for shouldering those costs is 84 percent (city) to 16 percent (parish). Durel wants the cost of services provided to unincorporated Lafayette Parish to reflect the parish’s population distribution: city residents would pay 54 percent of the cost; non city of Lafayette residents would pay 46 percent. This is an idea that’s long overdue — like 16 years overdue. Bravo, Joey!
Three low-performing Lafayette schools have joined the list of 180 schools across the state labeled academically unacceptable by the state Department of Education. Not unexpectedly, J.W. Faulk Elementary, Northside High and Alice Boucher Elementary schools received 2012 school performance scores of 65.1, 74.4 and 69.5, respectively. J.W. Faulk’s score is down two points over last year, while Alice Boucher increased its score by a little more than two points. Northside has shown the most improvement of the three, raising its score more than six points over last year, but still falls six-tenths of a point below the new state benchmark SPS of 75. Schools that fall below 75 are given a letter grade of F and placed on the list of academically unacceptable schools. The three schools managed to avoid failing status last year by edging above the 2011 SPS benchmark of 65, but the new minimum standards for 2012 had LPSS officials predicting a year ago that these same schools would be labeled as academically unacceptable by the 2012 school year. If the schools fail to make it off of the academically unacceptable list within four years, they could face takeover by the state, though Cooper’s six-year district turnaround plan includes several new strategies aimed at lowering the achievement gap that exists within north Lafayette schools.
Kudos to The Monroe News-Star’s Barbara Leader for pointing out that maybe, just maybe, the emperor is butt nekid. The paper reported that scheduled conference calls between Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members, the Department of Education and Superintendent John White to discuss key agenda items before public BESE meetings appear to violate the state’s open meetings law. In an effort to avoid a quorum, at least two conference calls were scheduled to address single matters before the board. In good-government parlance it’s called a “walking quorum” because such meetings of a public body are required by law to be at a fixed location, advertised ahead of time and open to the public. Conference calls meet none of those criteria. While BESE’s lawyer says the calls do not run afoul of Louisiana law, two BESE members — Carolyn Hill and Lottie Beebe — declined to participate in recent calls due to concerns they might be illegal. And member Connie Bradford, who did participate, referred to them as “meetings.”
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