Walter Pierce

Hardy: LPSS grant ‘not a done deal'

by Walter Pierce

State Rep. Rickey Hardy, who on Tuesday single-handedly knotted up Lafayette’s public-education community by blocking $746,000 in grant funding, says although he and school system officials mended fences on Wednesday over the funding, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the Lafayette Parish School System will get the money.

“We’re working on it,” Hardy said on Thursday. “It’s still not written in stone just yet to determine what direction I’m going to go in.”

The turmoil began Tuesday when Hardy, during a joint House-Senate Education Committee hearing, offered a motion to block Louisiana Educational Excellence Fund money from going to Lafayette Parish because school system administrators had not informed him of their grant application. The funding comes from the 1998 settlement with Big Tobacco. Hardy perceived the failure to contact him as a snub. “At some point in time you’ve got to at least respect the office of the person who’s in the office,” he says. “You may agree or disagree with that person or dislike their personality, but at the end of the day you have to respect the office.”

On Wednesday, realizing it could be out nearly three quarters of a million dollars in grant funding, the school system reached out Hardy to repair relations. The LPSS characterizes the fracas as a simple misunderstanding. “It’s just never come up,” LPSS Chief Financial Officer Billy Guidry says about the protocol of contacting a state representative about grant applications. Guidry says the school system submits between 75 and 100 grant applications — both state and federal — worth roughly $40 million each year, and while the LEEF grant is significant, administrators simply were not aware of the need to contact Hardy after the application had been submitted to and approved by the state Department of Education.

Guidry spoke with Hardy Wednesday to iron things out. “[The grant application is] just something that we present to the state Department [of Education]; it’s just never come up,” Guidry adds. “So, now that we’re aware of it, I have no problems nor would the superintendent for that particular grant application in future years giving him a call and letting him know what our intentions are for use of the funds.”

By Thursday, Hardy had softened his stand on the funding, but maintains, he could still change his mind and denies that blocking the funding was a gambit to land his name in the newspapers: “If I put the issue on the docket [in December] and bring it back up for reconsideration, they will get the money,” he says. “It’s not a done deal and it’s not a publicity stunt. If I wanted to do a publicity stunt I could go run in front of a car and jump on top the hood. It’s respect — that’s all it is — and trying to have some dialogue and trying to have some communication and a working relationship with the school district, man.”