In its July 1976 issue The Bossier Press reprinted articles from early issues of The Planters” Press.
The article “How About Free Books?” in the September 8, 1928 issue of The Planters’ Press conveys the mixed opinions of Bossier and Caddo residents about the constitutionality of free text books.
“Will Bossier school children have free textbooks when school opens Monday morning, September 17th, or will they be forced to buy their own books despite a free text book law passed by the state legislature?”
“That is the question that is bothering Bossier parents now that the Bossier [P]arish [S]chool [B]oard has filed suit against the free text book law. The free school book law has been passed by the legislature and efforts by individuals to have it proven unconstitutional have failed in the court. The Caddo and Bossier [P]arish [S]chool [Boards] have filed injunction suits to attempt to prove the law unconstitutional. They are of the opinion that an individual has no right to file procedings [sic] but that the school board has.”
“It is stated that although there is not enough money to supply new books to all school children an allowance of $1.00 is being made by the [S]tate [B]oard of [E]ducation to supply each child with books. The Caddo Parish School Board officials declared that an average of $3.00 per pupil is necessary for books. That board in special session Wednesday refused to accept the free books for Caddo school children and in addition filed an injunction suti [sic].”
“The Bossier School Board suit attacking the validity of the validity of the free text book law has been filed in Baton Rouge District Court in the name of Walter Connell, president of the Bossier Parish School Board, and M. V. Kerr, school superintendent for Bossier. In the meantime it is reported that petitions are being circulated in Bossier Parish by the school patrons asking that the suit be withdrawn.”
“It is stated that the Bossier Parish School Board has already ordered the free text books and that they are ready for distribution. Schools in Bossier will open Monday morning, September 17th, according to the schedule, and Bossier school patrons are anxious to obtain the free books at that time.”
“It is reported that the majority of the Bossier school patrons are desirous of obtaining the free text books.”
“In the petition filed by the school board, the $750,000 a year appropriation is attacked. The suit asks that the State Board of Education show cause why it should not be restrained from distributing the free text books. The petition alleges that under the Constitution public schools’ funds must be distributed to each parish solely for the use of supporting the free public schools.”
“The petition further alleges that the appropriation is unconstitutional as it is for the purposes other than those provided by the Constitution for the general appropriation bill which does not include school book appropriations; that the Constitution prohibits appropriations for private charitable or benevolent purposes, that it also prohibits loaning, pledging or granting funds to any person or persons; and that it limits the state educational system to the free public schools.”
“Virtually the same allegations of constitutional violations are made in the petitions as respects the act setting aside part of the severance tax fund for buying free books.”
“It was learned here Tuesday from John M. Foote, of the State Department of Education, that requisitions for free books for 50 of the 64 parishes have been approved and the books ordered shipped from the state school depository.’
The real objection to the free books was that Bossier and Caddo Parishes did not want to accept “charity” from the state. Ultimately, until Caddo Parish children were allowed the free books, Huey Long refused to authorize the location of Barksdale Air Force in Shreveport (at that time).
More interesting historical facts about Bossier Parish are available at the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.
Ann Middleton is Director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. She can be reached at (318) 746-7717 or