June 18, 2012 06:11 PM

The governor delivers a potential coup de grâce to the group's Escadrille Louisiane program.

When Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed $2 million in marketing funding Friday for the state's Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, it sent more than a chill through the office of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana.

Jindal's stroke of the pen put the 2-year-old Escadrille Louisiane initiative of the 44-year-old CODOFIL in a precarious position.

"I'm terribly disappointed," says CODOFIL President William Arceneaux. "Terribly disappointed. That's about all you can say."

All this comes just after getting LSU on board with Shreveport's Centenary College. The cuts will effect the 2013-14 term.

"We were going to shoot for 20 [students] next year. We did 10 the first year and we did seven this year," says Arceneaux. "But with this $100,000 cut, it's unlikely we'll be able to do any of that."

In 2010, the Legislature reorganized CODOFIL's structure, membership and mission "and the primary mission set forth in that law in 2010 was to develop more French immersion schools in Louisiana," says Arceneaux.

Before any cart goes a horse; likewise before any classroom a teacher must stand, which led to the question: "Who are we going to get to teach French in these French immersion schools?" asks Arceneaux, who then contacted the French government about sending American graduate students for schooling in France.

The French government loved the idea, says Arceneaux, and so along with the French Consulate in New Orleans, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in France "as well as colleges and universities in Louisiana to send people to France," the goal of more French Immersion in Louisiana was pursued.

CODOFIL picked up the ticket for the round trip, as well as the graduate level tuition of the students at Shreveport's Centenary College the summer prior to their departure.

The idea of the program has its roots in Escadrille Lafayette, a squadron of 200 American pilots who were sent to France's aide in WWI.

"They wanted to honor the Marquis de Lafayette for his role in fighting for the American Revolution on the side of the American," says Arceneaux. "I asked the French government if they'd be willing to take, over the next five to 10 years, 200, not pilots, but potential teachers who'd come back to Louisiana and teach," says Arceneaux.

In the process of "substantial belt-tightening" at CODOFIL, additional fallout means the 2.5 employees (down from 10 about 20 years ago) will leave just two as the part-time help will be let go.

"There's no money for travel anywhere - in-state or out-of-state - so, we'll be doing a lot of work on the phone, I guess," says Arceneaux.

"With those cuts, I don't know what we're going to do," he says. "Obviously, we'll try to raise as much private money as we can to continue the program. But failing that worse-case scenario, we'll probably have to suspend the program and hope for better times."

All this makes the upcoming fundraiser during the French Ambassador François Delattre's visit later this month a rather important affair.

The fundraising gala for study scholarships in France is set for Thursday, June 28, 7:15 p.m., at the UL Alumni House, 600 E. St. Mary Blvd. Tickets are $500 a couple; RSVP by calling 989-0071.

"Let's hope it's a success," Arceneaux says. "We need it now more than ever."