Aug. 9, 2006 12:00
Recently, the Legislature raised the sales-tax ceiling for Lafayette. We have many pressing needs, but we are also a community of visionaries.

Consider a half-cent sales tax, dedicated to educators' salaries ' but only through endowed funds. Eighty percent would go to the Community Foundation for K-12 education, 20 percent to the UL Foundation.

Consider UL, which gets a 40 percent state match. UL could find donors for further matches: $300,000 from taxes, $300,000 from donors, $400,000 from the state ' a $1 million chair, yielding $50,000 a year.

But universities generate a seven-fold multiplier. So $300,000 in taxes gives $50,000 a year. So $50,000 times seven generates $350,000 ' an immediate profit. But while each $300,000 is a one-time investment, the corresponding $350,000 per year is generated in perpetuity.

Next, consider that better faculty generate intellectual property, grants funding and support for local industry. They also recruit more students, who swell enrollments, another immediate impact. But those students provide a continually growing resource for infrastructure, leadership, and entrepreneurship, in the pivotal fields of technology, education, medicine, business, culture and tourism.

Now modify the model for our schools. First, three-fourths of the invested 80 percent (60 percent of the total) might supplement salaries for all teachers. The other one-quarter (20 percent) is leveraged against donations. With sliding scales based on the school lunch program, donors would give 30 to 60 percent matches for naming rights of a K-12 chair. These matches produce endowments of $200,000-250,000, augmenting superior teachers' salaries $10,000 to 12,000 a year. Private schools could also be eligible for this chair match program. The matches and multipliers here are smaller; it might take five to 10 years for yields to exceed investments. But thereafter, the funds generate ever-increasing returns into the economy, far above what they take in.

With growth in perpetuity.

But the benefits precede salary increases: the very best teachers across the U.S. know that they could enjoy ever-increasing salaries in Lafayette, even more so if they merit a chair.

Better schools will help us recruit better employees and industries, further growing our economy, producing even more taxes for government and schools. This plan will also increase our funding under the Minimum Foundation Program, further enhancing Lafayette.