The question now is this: how will Caddo residents respond to the moral imperative which screams from these facts.
Two articles in this Thursday morning’s Shreveport Times are likely to effectively end the decades-long debate about whether or not the Caddo Parish public school system is able to provide systemwide educational quality. The test scores for each school as expressed by the state’s new grade-letter scale translate the obvious into a fact: a strong majority of Caddo schools – more than 2-out-of-3 according to The Times report – get a grade of “D” or “F”.
While congratulations are certainly owed to a relative handful of our schools – Caddo Magnet High, as a prime example, is identified as the system’s top school, and the 4th-highest-graded in the state – but attention will and must quickly turn to the fact of that most Caddo Parish school children cannot get a decent, much less quality, education from the system now in place. Under the new grading system, the Caddo Parish public school system as a whole gets a “D”.
To provide context for these new data, readers may note my report two months ago which underscored our attempt in Caddo Parish to solve this highly destructive problem by throwing money at it. That report, based on data received from a request to Sheriff Prator in his role as parish tax collector, found that:
- Caddo Parish property tax collections over the ten most-recent years totaled slightly less than one billion dollars – the exact figure is $985,187,426;
- that figure does not include school spending generated by a 1.5% parishwide sales tax, nor from the CPSB’s state and federal pass-through spending;
- the amount paid in property taxes to the CPSB rose each year and outstripped inflation: annual increases in property tax revenue to CPSB ranged between +1.0% and +11.1%, with a +5.2% annual average; and,
- during the report’s 2001-2002 to 2010-2011 time period, enrollment dropped according to the Louisiana Department of Education, from 45,221 in October 2001 down to 42,142 in February 2011.
In summary, even with this spending avalanche – a +62.3% increase in parish property taxes paid to CPSB – and a 7% drop in enrollment, these new reports from the state make it clear that no amount of money has, or will, cure this problem. No one to whom we should pay any attention can fairly content that Caddo Parish taxpayers have not aggressively funded this grand experiment. The 78.200-mill public school property tax paid by Caddo homeowners is by far the highest among the state’s ten-largest parishes, 50% higher than the runner-up.
As I have explained in previous reports to you, my support for and experience within public education is broad and deep. Even more important, however, is the fact that we are not preparing children from our hometown and home parish for the lives ahead of them. THAT responsibility in America rests with us – Caddo residents – NOT any governmental entity.
Caddo residents simply must turn, without delay or equivocation, to the work of replacing this system. Independent school districts – ISDs – are, I believe, the proven replacement. You may note in the first Times article that only one school system in the state received an “A” grade, the Zachary Community School District. It is a newly implemented public Independent School District in the northernmost area of East Baton Rouge Parish, and it has led in state rankings for seven years in a row. Of its six schools, four received a grade of “A”.
The quality-killing separation between those who pay for our schools and those who run them must be erased, and these new data provide irrevocable evidence that our time’s up.
We might liken these Caddo data to a classroom in which 7-of-10 students just failed the course. There is simply no way those of conscience can allow the teacher in that room – the Caddo public school system – to continue failing that vast majority of our children.
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