- Elliott Stonecipher
- Elliott Stonecipher
March 1, 2016
When voters last year defeated the Caddo Parish School Board’s $108,000,000 plan to build more stuff, nothing proved as consequential as the refusal by top bosses to accept and respond to citizen questions. That has become the hallmark of the CPSB and top administrators: treating those who pay their monstrous tab with no semblance of respect.
Now, with yet another whopper of a property tax on the ballot for April 9th, the CPSB is proving nothing has changed. Superintendent T. L. Goree and school board attorney Reg Abrams are refusing to follow the law – the Louisiana Public Records Law – in answering questions about this latest demand – yes, demand – for megamillions of our money.
The subject is, yet again, our school system’s worship of brick and mortar. We have 20,000 fewer children enrolled than 45 years ago, but many more buildings … no matter how hard our school bosses try to hide the fact. As they try to tax us into submission … then oblivion … the CPSB is dishonest to its core when it refuses to acknowledge its reform-blind commitment to buildings, jobs and other political patronage at the expense of our kids.
The trigger in this instance was a KEEL Radio report that the CPSB “might” lease Alexander School. The system boss on the radio obviously wanted to make a pronouncement, but with few answers to questions. So, as many of us have learned the hard way, I took nothing he said at face value.
On February 24th, I filed a public records request with Superintendent Goree, as law dictates. I requested public documents about the supposed Alexander School “lease,” and about the costs and other pertinent facts concerning the re-do of West Shreveport Elementary School, a school that was empty, and certainly should have been sold or razed.
Here is how the Public Affairs Research (PAR) council explains the core of the Louisiana Public Records Law (SEE here):
“If the custodian decides that the record is not a public record, he or she must respond within three business days of your request and give you the legal reason for the decision, in writing.
If the record is a public record and it is available, it must be given to you immediately. If it is a public record and it is not available (because it is being used by someone else), the custodian must let you know this in writing. The custodian also must give a specific time when the record will be available to you.”
As public records requests go, this one was simple and easy, as was my intention. I requested documents detailing:
(a) the decision of the board and system bosses to rebuild West Shreveport Elementary;
(b) what that rebuilding cost taxpayers, and
(c) any attempts to sell or lease West Shreveport and/or Alexander schools.
The CPSB letter in response in no way asserted the documents were beyond the scope of the law, or unavailable. It said, “The information will require some time to collect.” Given that a lot, if not all, the documents are easily available within three days, we should be receiving them now, and should have them all by no later than the end of this week.
Instead, Dr. Goree and lawyer Reg Abrams say I will have them March 24th, a month after the date of the request. Such delay will certainly shorten and weaken the follow-up work necessary before the April 9th election.
Put another way, the CPSB and other bosses once again (a) are hiding something, and/or (b) see law as a mere irritation.
The CPSB would prefer that I sue them for the records – which belong to us. Given that I am more than a year into a lawsuit I filed against the Caddo Parish Commission, no thanks. I would rather write and publish reports such as this one.
Our Votes on April 9th
I believe the CPSB should have asked for public input before they put this huge hunk of property tax millages on the ballot. We should not give them this money. We should oppose the same ol’, same ol’ taxing and spending. It has yielded a school system with Louisiana’s highest incidence, by far, of failed or failing schools … 63% … nearly two-of-three.
We should always remember, too, that “tax renewal” is a term of political art for taxers. There are no tax “renewals.” Every such tax on every ballot and every time is a “sunset” of that tax … a tax expiration we the people required to pass it in the first place. Each vote allows tax-abused citizens – and none are more abused than we – to rein-in the greed of taxers.
I believe our CPSB should first, and substantially, increase the pay of ONLY school-based, frontline teachers and other employees. NO more taxes – for anything – unless and until then.
Regardless of anything else, the CPSB and other system bosses dishonor us. Their standing command … “Shut up and write the damned check!” … is how they arrived here … with our children held hostage.
… to be continued …
(Elliott Stonecipher is in no way affiliated with any political party, and has long been a registered “Other,” or Independent. He has no client or other relationships which in any way influence his selections of subjects or the content of any article. His work is strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is appreciated.)