Bossier Education Coalition shares its view on millage vote impact

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By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress.com

As voters prepare to vote on two property tax millages for teacher salaries and a technology funding source, campaigns both for and against the millages have been waged. 

Two millages— a property tax increase of 22.94 mills for funding pay raises for teachers and classified employees and an increase of 3.22 mills for a dedicated fund source for technology improvements — have caused consternation mainly among business owners about the negative financial impact on businesses.

One of the groups formed in favor of the proposition is the Bossier Education Coalition. 

Created by a group of educators and community stakeholders who saw an see the opportunity to support Bossier Schools in their efforts to improve education in Bossier Parish, the coalition hopes to serve as an avenue of communication and positive support for all Bossier Schools stakeholders. 

The Press-Tribune reached out to the Bossier Education Coalition lead organizers — Spencer Kiper, Elm Grove Middle School STEM teacher and 2019 Louisiana Teacher of the Year and Meredith McGovern, a teacher at Parkway High School — via email regarding the upcoming vote.

“We serve educators, support staff, employees, parents, and obviously, our main focus is to ensure that our students continue to thrive in our schools. We are a grassroots organization that receives zero funding, but are 100 percent committed to ensuring that Bossier Parish continues to benefit from the excellent education provided through Bossier Schools,” the pair said in their emailed response.

Regardless of how the vote turns out, Kiper and McGovern said they don’t see a teacher’s strike happening. But the long term effects will still be harmful.

“Bossier educators will do what they’ve always done — they will be in their classrooms on May 6, teaching and loving their students. Obviously there will be educators and employees who will have to make the difficult decision to leave Bossier Parish at the end of the school year to work in a parish where they can make more money. Those decisions won’t be made lightly, as one of the strongest selling points of working in Bossier Parish is the support and relationships made with the community,” they said. 

“Unfortunately, the highly negative publicity from the Building a Better Bossier PAC and the Good Government Coalition PAC has impacted the way educators feel about the support they receive from the community,” the pair added.

In their reply, Kiper and McGovern noted that a new, first-year teacher in Bossier Parish makes $42,827 compared to Desoto Parish, where the starting first year teachers makes $48,000. That means, the pair says, Bossier schools is losing teachers to neighboring parishes that pay more.

“In order to remain the best, it’s important that we can retain and attract the best and the brightest for our classrooms. Under our current salary schedule, we are unable to do that,” they said in the email. “The 2018 school year started with a high number of unfulfilled certified teaching positions in Bossier. This trend continued throughout the school year, with many of those positions going unfulfilled. Passing Prop 1 & 2 will allow Bossier to be competitive with surrounding parishes and hopefully alleviate the issues that were facing Bossier Schools at the beginning of the 2018 school year.”