April 28, 2017 01:23 PM

Public schools reflect community values. Lafayette's failure to invest in our public schools is embarrassing.

Illustration by Georgia Gates
IND Media urges Lafayette Parish residents to vote "yes" on the half-cent sales tax proposition on Saturday's ballot — and to support the three property tax renewals.

Public schools reflect and shape the values of the communities they serve. The condition of many Lafayette Parish public schools should be an embarrassment to us all. We have schools that were built decades ago to accommodate far fewer students than are now enrolled there.

Through years of short-sighted neglect, we have allowed temporary buildings to become near-permanent solutions to classroom overcrowding. These metal buildings are not environments conducive to learning. They scatter the student body across campuses and raise safety and security concerns due to their condition, number and accessibility.

We commend Superintendent Donald Aguillard and the board for the manner in which they have conducted school system business. There is none of the acrimony that came to characterize previous board/superintendent relationships, and that has allowed the system to respond more effectively to community needs and concerns.

The new Southside High School under construction in Youngsville is a prime example of the kind of work that has resulted from the good partnership between the superintendent and the board. The new building on the Alleman Middle School campus is another example. They have accomplished this work in tough times.

We believe the capital plan to which the superintendent and the board have presented and committed to carry out can bring similar benefits to communities across the parish. We take their word that this is their plan. We believe they have earned our trust through the way they have conducted their affairs.

Public education is central to the success of the American experiment. It plays a central role in preserving our democratic republic that relies on an educated and informed public in order to flourish. There are many fine private schools in Lafayette Parish, but public education is the tide upon which all boats rise or fall.

No community can truly prosper and succeed if only a small portion of it does well. The key to successful communities is to provide avenues for advancement for all, to give every talent the opportunity to be discovered and developed. Public education has as its mission, duty and responsibility the democratization knowledge; to provide that access to knowledge and development to everyone, regardless of who they are or the circumstances of their parents. It has been and remains the cornerstone of our community's success.

Lafayette's future is bright. We seek to compete with the world, not just our neighbor communities. While we cannot predict who our future business, community, spiritual or technology leaders will be, we have faith that they will arrive when we need them. The best way to ensure that they are there in our time of need is to invest in those institutions that we know provide the climate and resources to allow the development of the skills every successful community needs.

We believe investing in the Lafayette Public School System now is the smartest investment Lafayette voters can make in themselves in this decade.

The half cent sales tax is 100 percent dedicated and will allow for the construction of 248 permanent classrooms. It has a 10-year sunset provision.

Please vote "yes" on the school board tax on Saturday.

PROPERTY TAX RENEWALS

There are also three property tax renewals on the ballot, and we urge your support of them as well. The taxes will not cost parish residents any extra money, and the funds generated from these taxes are all dedicated toward vital services, including the basic upkeep of our public jail and courthouse, and, for city voters, city buildings.

Our economy is in a downturn because of low oil prices, and local government is struggling to maintain basic services. These propositions do not amount to a heavy burden for individual taxpayers but are critical for our government. Were the tax renewals to fail, the effect on the city-parish budget would be devastating.

Voters across Lafayette Parish are being asked to renew a 2.06 millage to repair and maintain the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center; this millage is the jail’s only source of income for repairs. The other parishwide renewal is a 2.34-mill property tax to maintain the seven-story parish courthouse, which was built in 1965.

The third is only for city of Lafayette voters, who are being asked to renew a 1.13-mill property that supports the maintenance and operation of an estimated 130 public buildings, including all city fire and police stations.

Again, your "yes" vote is urgently needed.


ICYMI:

Introducing The Current