Saturday, May 18, 2024

BPSB Adopts Resolution Opposing Proposed State Legislation

by Stacey Tinsley
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Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune

On Tuesday, March 26, 2024, the Bossier Parish School Board convened in a special session to adopt a resolution opposing proposed state legislation, HB 745 and SB 313, which the board feels would adversely affect public education statewide. “I can’t help but come to the realization that everyone looks at money. It’s strictly money. That’s what they seem to focus on,” remarked Glen Bullard, who represents District 6 on the Bossier Parish School Board.

“Where are those dollars being spent? We know where they are being spent in Bossier Parish Schools. We provide transportation. We provide meals, not just a lunch meal. We provide a host of supportive services for our students from pre-K all the way through high school. Our students are afforded extraordinary educational opportunities. We provide funding to allow them to take dual enrollment classes, let’s say at Bossier Parish Community College. So when they graduate, they don’t just graduate with a diploma from one of our high schools,” Bullard added. The board voted to adopt the resolution unanimously, 11-0.

Earlier this week, a Louisiana Senate committee advanced a universal school choice bill that would make the state of Louisiana the 12th state in the nation to pass such a program. SB 313, sponsored by Sen. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, would create the Louisiana Giving All True Opportunity to Rise (LA GATOR) Scholarship Program. Rep. Julie Emerson, R-District 39, introduced a House version of the bill, HB 745, on March 18. LA GATOR scholarships would be education savings accounts (ESAs) that could be used for tuition, curriculum, tutoring, or a variety of other education-related expenses. If approved, the program would launch for the 2025-26 school year. In addition to creating LA GATOR scholarships, SB 313 and HB 745 would repeal the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence, a voucher program serving low-income students at low-performing public schools, since these students would receive larger scholarships through the LA GATOR program.

Following the special session, Bossier Schools Superintendent Jason Rowland addressed local media and answered questions regarding the resolution and the position that other school boards throughout Louisiana are taking in response to proposed legislation currently being debated in the Louisiana Legislature. “I don’t think a superintendent would be worth a salt if they didn’t stand up for the public education system that they oversee. And, fighting for Bossier Parish is something we are going to do. Not only for the taxpayers of Bossier, but also for the educators. The Bossier Parish School System is the second-largest employer in Bossier Parish,” said Rowland.

“Our taxpayers have made tremendous investments in Bossier Parish Schools. And, a return on an investment is what they expect. And when these taxpayer dollars leave our parish or go to something else outside of the public school system, that’s not right. Not only is it taxpayer dollars, it’s my taxpayer dollars. We want to encourage our legislators to think hard about the decisions they have to make and understand that they represent a population in Bossier Parish who is not for things like this. We have a great school system and we want to find ways to support the school system. To move ourselves forward, not to drag it down. We have important initiatives that we want to accomplish. But quite frankly, if the funding is removed, then these initiatives will have to be put on the back burner,” Rowland added.

Below is a copy of the resolution the Bossier Parish School Board adopted during their special session on Tuesday, March 26, 2024:

A Resolution expressing opposition to state legislation establishing Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), including House Bill 745, which creates the LA GATOR Scholarship Program, that provide public dollars for private school tuition and educational expenses and to urge the Bossier Parish legislative delegation to vote NO on any bill proposing an Education Savings Account, and otherwise to provide with respect thereto.

WHEREAS, there is a renewed and concerted effort at the legislature to pass bills that will give public funds directly to parents to be used for private school tuition and other educational expenses with little to no oversight; and WHEREAS, for the past 20 years, the state has failed to adequately fund K-12 public education; and WHEREAS, during that same period the state has continuously placed new accountability demands on both our students and our schools; and WHEREAS, the Bossier Parish School Board provides free public K-12 education to any student who resides in our school district within the guidelines set by both the state and federal government; and WHEREAS, diverting public dollars to private schools and other programs through Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) without fully funding public schools disadvantages our students and schools; and WHEREAS, providing public dollars to ESAs without requiring the same state accountability testing imposed on public school students is irresponsible public policy. THEREFORE, the Bossier Parish School Board does hereby express its OPPOSITION to legislation creating and/or funding Education Savings Accounts. FURTHER, the Bossier Parish School Board directs the superintendent of the Bossier Parish School System to deliver a certified copy of this Resolution to each member of the legislative delegation of Bossier Parish. RESOLVED by the Bossier Parish School Board at a special board meeting on the 26th day of March 2024.

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