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BEEF reaches $50 million milestone

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Photo by Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune

A $500,000 investment more than 30 years ago has resulted in millions of dollars for Bossier Parish public schools.

The Bossier Educational Excellence Fund has reached a milestone $50 million. This unique savings account, created by Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, is designed to allow the school system to use the fund’s yearly interest to pay for classroom enhancements.

The Bossier Parish School Board has approved $7 million in projects since BEEF started, including 100,000 hours of after-school tutoring, 1,500 computers, 40 digital “Smart” boards for teachers, a music laboratory and television production studio, and expanded art instruction. BEEF’s value may be in the millions, but Bossier Schools Superintendent Scott Smith said it’s priceless for the more than 23,000 students enrolled in the public school system.

“It does not cost our taxpayers one single penny, yet it has far reaching effects on the educational experience Bossier Schools is able to offer every single student in Bossier Parish every single day,” Smith said. “We’re working hard to become the highest performing school district in the state of Louisiana. That vision can only happen with partners like Foster Campbell, who found an innovative way to invest in public education.”

In 1985, Campbell, a former state senator (Dist. 36) and school teacher, persuaded then-Governor Edwin Edwards to set aside $500,000 in yearly state tax revenue from Louisiana Downs to create a perpetual endowment for Bossier Schools.

“The Legislature had set aside racetrack funding for the City of Bossier City and the Bossier Parish Police Jury, but nobody was talking about our schools,” Campbell said.

He later amended the BEEF legislation to draw in state revenues from Bossier City casinos. The school board has budgeted $2.75 million in new revenues for BEEF this fiscal year,
plus an additional $500,000 in interest earnings.

“Public school systems have so many needs, yet lack the resources to fund them,” Billie Jo Brotherton, School Board President and District 1 representative, said. “Thanks to BEEF, our district is able to fill many of those gaps without going to taxpayers for additional monies.”

Campbell praised the board for its management of the fund and those who helped him create it as a state senator in 1985.

“There were times when I feared that BEEF would be carved up and spent,” he said. “There were times I had to fight to prevent raids on the fund to balance the State budget. Instead, school board members and superintendents through the years have helped me to protect BEEF and ensure that interest earnings only are spent, and only in the classroom.”

In 1999, Campbell used BEEF as the model for a statewide endowment for education
funded with a portion of the state’s $4-billion Tobacco Settlement. Now the “Educational
Excellence Fund” provides dollars for classroom instruction in public and private schools
throughout Louisiana. Its current balance is $476 million.

“The same principle applies to EEF as to BEEF: Only the interest earned on the fund is
spent, and only on approved classroom instruction,” Campbell said.

The state Education Department reported that $58 million in interest earnings from EEF
was available at the beginning of the 2017-18 fiscal year for spending by public, private and charter schools. EEF grants can go toward early childhood education, remedial instruction, instructional technology, career and technical programs, and other needs.

“BEEF and its statewide equivalent, the EEF, are two areas of public finance in Louisiana where fiscal discipline is applied and works,” Campbell said. “I am proud that we have managed these funds wisely to benefit our schools and our children throughout Louisiana, now and into the future.”