CADDO PARISH CONCERNS
by Elliott Stonecipher
To many of us, it was the real proof that all elections are not created equal; that what is at stake on some election days is far, far more important than most. That voting day in 1991 is now known as “the election from hell,” and notwithstanding the fact that no one of us has yet reported back from there, what was happening certainly felt sickening and other-worldly. Edwin Edwards and David Duke were in a run-off for governor, and we trudged to the polls as if to a wake for a dear and special friend, but with a quickened step. Two of the best bumper stickers in American political history told the story: “Vote for the Crook … It’s Important!,” and “Vote for the Lizard, Not the Wizard.” It was important that Louisiana not be known to the world as the deep southern congregation of people who elected the KKK’s top guy to forever curse it. All bets in the games and times of political normalcy and entertainment were off: this was a moral imperative, and we knew it.
In our own way, that brings Caddo Parish residents to May 4th. No, the godawful idea of somehow permitting the election of David Duke as governor is not before us, but protecting the education of our kids from elsewhere dying teacher unions and self-serving politicos certainly is … as never before in my experience. The responsibility for doing so falls to We The People after last night’s Caddo Parish School Board meeting. There and then, seven-of-twelve elected school board members forgot their Oaths, abdicated their responsibility, followed the loud exhortation of the teacher union, and dared us to challenge their view of how to care for our children in and by their educations. These board members put on a bold and cold display of bad faith with those of us who have – during and through the system’s failure – continued to pay a very real premium to keep it going. (I thank the Shreveport Times’ education reporter, Mary Nash-Wood, for her reporting last night, since updated.)
The request made of board members in yesterday’s special meeting was simple, honorable, logical, straight-forward and balanced: since the system has no superintendent, and since the State of Louisiana has just announced it will soon takeover up to two dozen of our schools, postpone until November the upcoming May 4th property tax vote. That vote will be for or against three property tax millages generating $55,000,000 a year, one of which is not even due until 2014. In fact, putting the 2014 renewal on the 2013 ballot was already evidence of greed and bad faith, but the Board proved yesterday that bad faith by this public body can always get worse, and in a hurry.
School Board President Larry Ramsey, along with Vice-President Carl Pierson, joined to bring the special postponement vote to their colleagues after the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, Alliance for Education and others had worked to make the case for delay. Until the teacher union and some self-serving politicians took over the process, it was likely the approach would be approved, and the months until the November election date would be used to develop a comprehensive plan for a future with one-of-three of Caddo’s public schools under new management. The board opted to dishonor this honorable request.
As if the rank-smelling fact of the meeting’s outcome is not enough, the way it was done reeked times two: Carl Pierson’s motion made in the name of a community-based overhaul effort died for the lack of a second … died for the lack of a second! Given that Larry Ramsey, as Board President, could not second this or any other motion, the fear of the teacher union was so total that even public debate was blocked. Thus, the May 4th attempted public larceny stands. For the record, the seven other board members present, any one of whom could have seconded the motion, were and are:
Members Curtis Hooks, Bonita Crawford and Ginger Armstrong were not in attendance.
This one will go down hard. At the same time this fiasco is playing out, Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover is flipping-off the citizenry with his openly illegal vendetta to kill a dog park which was approved by each dot and tittle of the city’s Rule of Law. In defense of all we say we honor in government, the dog-park law-abiders were forced to do the City Council’s job by taking our mayor to court. There, we can only hope and pray, a Caddo District judge will force Glover to honor his twice-vowed, hand-on-the-Bible and all, Oath of public service. A majority of our school board members now join Glover in this my-Lord-what-is-happening-to-us?! parade.
We can likewise hope and pray that other groups will join the Chamber of Commerce and Alliance for Education in the work of stopping our slide. To give this school board, labor unions and a handful of additional bad actors (more on that later) $55,000,000 as a going-away present would be a huge mistake. Orleans Parish made a series of such mistakes in the 1960s and 1970s, just as Jefferson County (Alabama), Stockton (California), Atlanta and Detroit have since, and are now. Long since stagnant, Caddo Parish should not dare to assume the effects of such community sell-outs to greed and self-interest will end up differently here.
We have certainly learned that offering quality educations to our children is anything but a given. In good faith, the people of Caddo Parish have always provided huge and incomparable portions of their money in that crucial fight. Notably and sadly, that indisputable fact has never been honored by those who receive that ceaseless gusher of our earnings. Last night’s meeting was the period at the end of that sad sentence.
It is more than merely entertaining that the chapter of Louisiana history reserved for Edwards and Duke ends with federal prison sentences for each, the direct result of their respective greed. While there are no such obviously meaningful results expected from Caddo’s May 4th test, it is not “just another election.” It’s important… likely really important.
Elliott Stonecipher’s reports and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest. No compensation of any kind has been solicited or accepted for this work. This work is protected, and no other use of it is permitted without the written consent of Mr. Stonecipher.