This article is the new installment in my countdown of the Top 10 Reasons to vote “NO” on the Caddo Parish School Board’s tax-and-spend-and-debt plan. For those who missed Reasons #10 and #9, click here, and for Reasons #8, #7, and #6, here.
REASONS #5, #4, and #3:
#5. What We Don’t Know Always Hurts Us — This Time Particularly So
The list of this tax plan’s unanswered questions is far more striking than in any tax proposition offered by any Caddo Parish governmental body in my long experience. The number and importance of the yet unanswered is a stand-alone mandate to vote NO! Here are but a few:
- Why did the school board and staff hatch most of this plan in non-public — secret — meetings? What could not bear public, taxpayer scrutiny?
- What role was played by those who earlier put up serious amounts of money to elect four of our board’s six new members? (I supported that op, and judging from what we thus far know, I was wrong.)
- Are there for-profit interests for whom we are expected to build the new Southeast Shreveport school? Some of us know that our system officials have all related answers, so why do they hide them?
- Why were the parents and teachers and taxpayers targeted to be hit by the specifics of the plan — schools to be closed, for example — shut out of the process?
Why do top system officials find it necessary to intimidate teachers and principals in their aggressive campaign to pass this plan? Why are the stakes that high?
Nothing about this process respects, much less honors, those who will pay its many and expensive costs.
#4. The Greater Good
These are words lost to a much better time. Then, almost all public officials meant the Oath of service they swore. These words simply mean,
“We cannot have what we ‘want,’ and we will not reward ourselves. The greater good must be served.”
The greater good is served if this plan is defeated, and the school system notably lowers its property taxes which are th0e highest in Louisiana, and much higher than a lot of other places in America. This system must be aggressively — and fairly — down-sized. Only then can Caddo Parish attract more taxpayers. If we do not do this, the parish will ever more rapidly continue its decline.
#3. We Should be Bridging to the Replacement System
Writing this series has been bittersweet. Mixed in with this reporting of bad governance and worse politics, some of us well remember some very good schools with their share of very good teachers and principals.
Some of the schools set for closing by this plan nurtured, and for some, protected us. Some of the educators in those schools stepped into our young and too often vulnerable lives to support and encourage us when others did not. Some of the principals we knew to appropriately fear were, we later learned and have never forgotten, true sentries who stood watch over us. Their hearts and souls informed them such was their job.
Among the many gifts some of us were blessed to receive was a very good education.
That was then. This is very much now. That was a school system we lost to our societal debts which went for generations unpaid. Separate but destructively unequal schools in ways sacrificed the educations of untold numbers of children, and took out a mortgage on the futures of many children to come.
Now, decades into our payment of those debts, we see that our old model, its invaluable strengths for some notwithstanding, is no longer usable, and awaits replacement. Rather than shaping that replacement, the CPSB continues to tax and borrow and spend, preserving itself as an instrument of political patronage.
As sad as it was to learn just days ago that we graduated only 67.7% of our Caddo Parish schools’ Class of 2014, the fact that the state has graded 53% of our schools “D” or “F” makes it worse. No system official in any way commented. Had they, the honest response would have been, “It is what it is.”
What those officials are saying is, “We want more!” — $108,000,000 more to drill a few more dry holes — which they refer to as “new schools.” That will run the debt we owe for this system to $262,812,944, plus interest on the whopping new principal. This tax plan is, in fact, dramatic evidence of the Politician’s Creed: Never, ever allow a tax to die!!
There is no version of sweet in this plan. This is purely about money — cold, hard, borrowed bucks. Nothing that makes the difference for children, and nothing for the front line pros who do the job that really matters.
— Elliott Stonecipher