LPSB gives lip service to school system priorities

by Patrick Flanagan

Lafayette Parish School Board members cited closing the the achievement gap, raising test scores and lowering the drop-out rate as some of their priorities for the upcoming school year.

"If we keep cutting, scores will go down, and we can't blame the superintendent for that" - LPSB member Kermit Bouillion

The Lafayette Parish School System has a major funding problem, but the one solution - a new tax - won't happen unless the board can show the public they're willing to bury the hatchet against the superintendent.

With Superintendent Pat Cooper's annual evaluation slated for next week, the board - sans Tehmi Chassion and Mark Allen Babineaux - met Thursday to discuss priorities for the upcoming school year. According to this report from The Daily Advertiser, the discussion largely revolved around money.

A majority of board members are focused more on cuts than figuring out ways to keep the system afloat, and with some members saying higher ACT scores should be a priority, it was board member Kermit Bouillion who said he was opposed to that idea: "I'm all for raising them, but if we're cutting more in the budget, taking away teachers and staff members, how is it we would expect our test scores to go up? If we keep cutting, scores will go down, and we can't blame the superintendent for that."

Other priorities raised by board members included lowering the drop-out rate, closing the achievement gap, introduce new technology into the classroom and instituting more early childhood programs.

On the surface, these priorities sound like great ideas, but without the necessary funding, they're nothing more than lip service.

The long-term solution: A new tax. But with the way this current board has been handling itself for the last two years, the likelihood of that passing muster with voters is slim at best.

If the board really wants to accomplish any of its priorities for the upcoming school year, it will require dipping into the school system's more than $70 million fund balance.