by Elliott Stonecipher

When the Caddo Parish School Board takes action at its Tuesday meeting on its sales tax increase and bond issue proposals, members can expect to hear plenty of public opposition.  Unfortunately, in the recent past – the best example being the system’s so-called “Vision 2020” plan – broad and deep public opposition has been no deterrent to actions taken by a strong majority of Board members.

In today’s Shreveport Times the opposition to these attempts by the Board to rake-in even more tens-of-millions of taxpayer dollars are systematically picked apart and strongly opposed by the Times itself (SEE editorial here), and by the Alliance for Education, as expressed by its director, Scott Hughes (SEE op-ed here).  Joining with the Alliance in opposition – as identified within its op-ed – are the community organizations which form the backbone of apolitical local leadership:  the Community Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, and Committee of 100.

For decades, a different view of community support was a hallmark of our CPSB and its administrators.  As one who chaired several citizen task forces for the Board and administration through those years, I can attest that any and all Caddo Board attempts to raise public funds – whether new taxes or increased bond debt within existing millages – began with the work necessary to garner public expressions of that support.  More than one strongly desired such would-be funding increase was shut-down by former superintendents and Boards based solely on privately expressed opposition from such apolitical community groups.

The facts of decades-long public support of the CPSB are inarguable, and unassailable testimony to that support is the way we in Caddo Parish voted notably higher taxes upon ourselves than did our neighbors elsewhere in Louisiana.

In the past 10-15 years, all of that changed.

A new attitude among a strong majority of school board members set-in.  They and the CPSB administration became resolute in their dismissal of public expressions of disapproval, jamming down the public’s throat spending plan after spending plan, tax increase after tax increase, all the while refusing to address its declines in enrollment and – most importantly – its inability to produce and offer quality educations for all of our children.  With its class warfare strategy, CPSB tax and bond elections were turned into displays of huge support from those who don’t pay property taxes at the cost of those who do.  After enough such CPSB behavior, the public – increasingly without its own children and grandchildren in attendance within the failing system – turned away.

There is no way to overestimate the importance of public education quality in the underlying health – or disease – of any community.  Every city and town’s dance is called based on education quality, a community’s ability to control its crime, and the degree to which public corruption saps governance and, thus, public confidence and support.  Along the way in Shreveport and Caddo’s history, these – arguably led by poor educational quality – chased many would-be residents and taxpayers away.  That cycle is self-reinforcing, and ever higher taxes and debt-per-capita for those of us who remain is irrefutable.  As more and more Caddo residents retire and leave, these conditions will, of course, worsen.

Without doubt, preservation of the status quo is not an option.  The state will take over more and more of our schools, along with helping itself to ever higher amounts of our local tax revenues.  Those of us who involve ourselves in the highly partisan, straight-from-Washington, DC mess which now passes for state government can attest that we in Caddo want no part of any of that.


Some good, hard-working public servants among the Board’s members accept that the CPSB and administration are responsible – and accountable – for these circumstances.  They, and many others of us, know that solutions to this set of problems must, and will, be found

On Tuesday, we will learn if this Board will be a part of these available solutions.  If either a new bond issue or a sales tax increase is voted onto an election ballot by the Board, that answer is “No.”  If the Board action goes the other way, the community as a whole – the CPSB and administration included – can then quicken the pace of reform.

What possible gain is there for any CPSB member who ignores the public interest, further raids the diminishing coffers of available taxpayers, and then proclaims her or his “victory” by presiding over a failed and disappearing public school system?

Elliott Stonecipher

For any reader who may not know, this and all other such analysis and commentary I forward to you has been done strictly in the public interest.  No compensation of any kind has been solicited, offered or accepted for this work.

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