April 13, 2017 01:09 PM

The school system wants to replace 248 portable classrooms with permanent wings and new construction.

In 2007 The League of Women Voters of Lafayette published a landmark study called Everybody’s Schools providing a comprehensive view of facility planning in the Lafayette Parish School System. The study showed an overreliance on temporary classroom buildings, facilities not meeting minimum safety requirements, schools lacking productive, safe spaces for student learning, and a chronically underfunded facilities and maintenance budget. Ten years later, the funding for an adequate facilities plan still eludes us.

Amid the complex web of public school financing, roughly half of funds for public schools in Lafayette comes from sales and property taxes paid in Lafayette Parish. Typically, less than 5%, of overall funding is spent on capital improvements and maintenance. Dollars for facilities are often diverted to meet critical needs for classroom instruction forcing the hands of system leaders to defer maintenance and expansion until critical shortages and safety issues demand it. Responding to crisis is an expensive and inefficient means of maintaining a public school system’s infrastructure.

On Saturday, April 29th the Lafayette Parish School Board is providing voters an opportunity to decide on a half-cent, ten-year dedicated sales tax option. Food and prescription drugs will not be subject to the tax. According to school system estimates, if passed the option would provide approximately 230 million dollars over the next ten years. Among the projects included in the dedication are the replacement of two half-century old elementary schools and the construction of several permanent classroom wings that would eliminate 248 temporary classrooms.The resolution and outline for revenue dedications is available on the district’s website.

The League of Women Voters of Lafayette has steadfastly supported a strong public school system for Lafayette. We remain dedicated to working toward adequate public financing of critical infrastructure needs in Lafayette Parish. We encourage voters to consider the significance of the April vote and to recognize that this school tax represents a short-term solution for infrastructure that deserves a long-term, stable solution.

The Lafayette Parish School System is the largest economic engine in the parish. It is the region’s largest employer, and more than 30,000 students walk through our doors each day to earn an education, a result of a commitment we as a community made to provide for them many years ago. The names of our schools, such as J. W. Faulk, David Thibodaux, and Katherine Drexel, are testimonials to a community’s vision to the education of all children. Adequately sustaining the buildings that bear their names honors their legacy and passes on to the next generation the lesson that safe and efficient places to learn is a Lafayette value.

— Kathleen Schott Espinoza, League of Women Voters of Lafayette

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