As deconsolidating Lafayette Parish and the funding mechanism for downtown security grab our attention and our headlines, an equally big story involving a huge chunk of our fiscal resources is garnering astonishingly little mention.
Early this month during a workshop, members of the Lafayette Parish School Board were presented with scenarios for our public school facilities by the Baton Rouge planning firm hired to assess our infrastructure needs. The scenarios range from a low figure of $207 million (scenario A — selective maintenance at all 42 school sites) up to $487 million (scenario D — replacing nine of the most dilapidated schools, among other measures).
More daunting is the final page of the packet board members received. It’s titled “Prioritized List (partial)” and amounts to the firm’s nuclear option — replacing 14 schools including Lafayette and Northside high schools, modernizing and/or renovating 20 others, and deferring maintenance on eight. The price tag on that is $784,315,020. That’s more than three quarters of a billion dollars. Billion. With a B.
So where’s the gut check?
According to Private School Review, which tracks private and parochial school attendance nationwide, there are roughly 9,300 students in Lafayette Parish whose parents choose and can afford to send them to private schools. That’s almost a third of the population of Lafayette Parish’s 31,000 public-school students. Considered another way, nearly a quarter of students in Lafayette attend private schools. Add in the majority of Episcopal School of Acadiana’s 500 students — it’s in St. Martin Parish but, according to a school official, up to 70 percent of its students are from Lafayette — and the 30- and 25-percent figures become even more accurate.
PSR’s numbers are higher than the Louisiana Department of Education, which has Lafayette’s private-school population at 20 percent of all school-age children, and that’s a lower percentage by far than the three most populous Louisiana parishes: Orleans (65 percent private), Jefferson (35) and East Baton Rouge (31). But Lafayette’s 25- or 20 percent private-school rate — take your pick — is higher than the other two parishes in the state with a larger population than ours: St. Tammany (18 percent private) and Caddo (10).
An interesting footnote: According to PSR, St. Scholastica Academy in St. Tammany, an all-girls Catholic school, has 666 students. I couldn’t proceed without mentioning that.
What these percentages suggest is that the intimidating numbers generated by the planning firm get little traction in the public dialogue because we as a parish are disengaged, disinterested and utterly apathetic about our public schools. The affluent in Lafayette Parish, the business executives, attorneys, physicians and the like — those who typically drive the civic dialogue when it comes to economics — aren’t part of the conversation; their children are at ESA, St. Thomas More, Westminster Christian. And as this week’s cover story suggests, the parents of students in our most distressed schools are equally detached and, more important, mistrustful of the school system.
We all have a stake in public schools. Our property taxes and sales taxes bankroll the enterprise. But very few of us engage. So while some of us dismiss 100 Black Men’s mission as quixotic, they deserve our applause. They deserve our membership.
Beginning March 9 at Acadiana High the school board will resume its community dialogues to present information “about our options for the district in general.” One Hundred Black Men will be there. Will you?
Let ’em know and you could win a $250 night out.
Paul’s customer giveaway named
Some of the many events taking place this weekend include The Festival of Light and the Fire & Water Festival.
Appropriate for the season of giving, exhibit features behind-the-scenes images of beloved icon.
Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by 12 this week to 1,775.
The state labor department figures released Friday show the initial claims decreased to 1,850 from the previous week's total of 2,854. For the comparable week a year earlier, there were 4,048.
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Last week, the Saints gave up 429 yards to Seattle, second most in a game this season.
kiki hosting designer’s latest
Laid back cuts for the NOLA Bowl
Flavors of mama’s holiday sweet treat with a twist
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, December 06, 2013
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Get a map to your doctor’s office, check the status of a claim and more with Blue Cross’ new iPhone/Ipad app.
“Shell’s abrupt decision to cancel its North American GTL project just 10 weeks after concluding a multi-year site-selection process is obviously very disappointing news,” LED Secretary Stephen Moret tells Daily Report.
The quirky songwriter showcase takes over the stage at Blue Moon Saloon Saturday night for a final go-round with all-new performers.
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Cocktails and deals for the holidays
New York Times best-selling author talks Hollywood, the death penalty and the pitfalls of runaway campaign spending.
NOLA Bowl ready with tribal prints