by Elliott Stonecipher
(This is one in a continuing series of articles concerning the Caddo Parish School Board property tax millage proposition set for a May 2, 2015 election. If approved by voters, CPSB nets another $108,000,000 for new schools and other buildings.)
News of our annual and awful Caddo school system graduation rate broke last week. We graduated only 67.7% of our system’s Class of 2014.
More honestly said, one-in-three Caddo Parish students stepped into official adulthood last year without a high school education. We well know they were woefully unprepared for what awaited them.
As we yet again suffer digestion of this failing, we have heard no reaction from our Caddo Parish School Board or administration. They are too busy with their heavy-handed campaign to score a $108,000,000 tax haul in next month’s vote. Directly to the point of this piece, none of their intended mega-million score goes for better instructional programs. Neither will any of it go to our teachers as they fight the front line battle against so many opponents, including our huge number of education politicians and bureaucrats.
Simply put, the priority of our CPSB and staff is the political craft of funding and building new stuff … a whopping load of $108,000,000 in new brick and mortar stuff. This is so even given that the system is notorious for its bloat and excess, particularly in the very brick and mortar it now and again seeks to grow.
Where Solutions Are the Focus
While our Caddo board and top staff sputter with one or two cylinders firing, neighbors across our eastern and southern borders run educational enterprises firing on all eight. Bossier’s graduation rate in 2014 was an above-average 80% – the statewide grad rate was 75% – and DeSoto’s was 95% … #1 in Louisiana.
DeSoto Parish’s #1 graduation ranking matches its #1 ranking in beginning teacher salaries. Such is a potent set of strengths for DeSoto, and we may well wonder if our Caddo system operators recognize the connection between the two. Caddo ranks 30th-ranked in beginning teacher salaries. The official report showing Caddo’s statewide ranking in graduation rates has not yet been released, but in the year previous, only 4-of-69 Louisiana systems ranked lower.
DeSoto Parish leverages its public school excellence to attract Caddo families to its expanding residential areas around the North DeSoto complex of elementary / middle / high schools. That complex is a mere eight-mile drive down Hwy. 171 from our Caddo system’s Keithville Elementary / Middle School.
What This Is Really About
Seeing to it that our children graduate from high school is the purpose of public school systems. That our Caddo system is only 67.7% successful is why the “school choice” movement is taking over. Too many public school systems believe and accept that this huge percentage of drop-outs necessarily traces to these children being destined – doomed – to fail by their life circumstances.
The stark argument and evidence to the contrary is the number of these students who do, in fact, overcome such circumstances, and graduate. How do we explain them? How do we know which ones those are, or are not? How much of our school system’s acceptance of that excuse dooms those who in its absence can and would overcome?
The truth, many of us believe, is that our public school system is far, far too focused on things other than educating our children. Among these distractions-turned-avocations are these …
… a 1930’s-style political patronage system for jobs, school buildings and other like political currency
… for example, an unnecessary $25,000,000 school for our city’s wealthiest, because “they deserve it”
… setting stunningly high pay for top staffers, e.g., superintendents and system attorneys
… incessant tax money increases, regardless that we have 20,000 fewer students than in 1970
… securing top staff goodies like new cars, travel junkets, and their private Central Office cafeteria.
Far too many of our Caddo Parish public school “leaders” today are in the business of raw, bullying politics rather than the business of educating our children. These top officials are now demonstrating how adept they are at such dark political arts. Such is as awful as our high school graduation rate.
Our school-based professional educators cannot teach and prepare our kids as their system superiors increasingly function as political ward healers and bosses.
In the context of such raw and wrong politicking, may the record show that Caddo taxpayers have certainly given these school system “leaders” far more money than necessary to do their jobs:
… Thirty years ago, Caddo taxpayers gave our school board $2,600 per-year, per-pupil to do its job, equal to $5,900 today.
… Today, we give these “leaders” over $12,000 per pupil, each year.
That is more than double: a 103% real increase above the rate of inflation, in a parish with over 12,000 fewer people since its population peak in 1986.
As The Times put in the headline of its editorial in opposition to this tax plan, “More money won’t fix Caddo schools,“ and “Amen!” cried the ever-smaller taxpayer choir.
Even those who have diligently worked for decades on behalf of this school system – this writer specifically included – are increasingly aware: left alone, our school board and its top administrators and attorneys will never cease taxing and wasting … and thriving – on our money – as bosses of political patronage.
Our Caddo Parish children have for many years deserved far, far better.
(Elliott Stonecipher is in no way affiliated with any political party. He has no client or other relationships which in any way influence his selections of subjects or the content of any article. His work is strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is appreciated.)