Archive for March, 2015

Student Mob to Protest on Behalf of Deadheads

03/31/2015

Louisiana college students plan to protest budget cuts at state Capitol April 15

By Elizabeth Crisp

Louisiana college students are planning to demonstrate at the state Capitol on April 15 in response to the threat of deep cuts to higher education funding in the coming year.

The state Legislature’s 2015 session begins April 13. With Louisiana facing a $1.6 billion funding shortfall, funding for colleges and universities could be cut by millions.

LSU Board of Supervisors student member Brandon Crane said all supporters of higher education are urged to help with and join in the demonstration.

A group of LSU students called Geaux Vote has said that it will be actively opposing the cuts at the Capitol this session, and the LSU Alumni Association formed a new group called Tiger Advocates to engage supporters in the legislative process.

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A Solution to the Louisiana Higher Ed “Crisis?”

03/31/2015

Louisiana Is Going To Have To Close Some Universities, So Let’s Discuss Which Ones

By Kevin Boyd

Louisiana has 14 four-year universities. Florida, with over four times the population of Louisiana only has 12 four-year universities. Louisiana can no longer sustain this many universities.

The state’s many public universities is crowding out better options for Louisiana’s young people. Many states have steered kids, for their first two years of college, to junior and community colleges. They average about a third of the tuition of a four-year and it can transition academically struggling students into college-level work. This large number of universities also crowds out private and religious institutions. Government should never crowd out civil society.

If we go by Florida’s proportion, Louisiana would only keep 3 or 4 four-year universities. But asking the legislature and the Board of Regents to close or privatize 10 universities is probably a bit much. This session, we should close or privatize five universities.

When deciding to close or privatize universities, lawmakers need to take some factors into account. The first thing to consider are the graduation rates. Another thing to consider is are these schools in the midst of an attendance death spiral, ie. they’re losing lots of students. We also need to look at the total enrollment of each campus.

The ideal schools for closure are the small campuses that graduate nobody. The schools slated for privatization are schools with a somewhat decent attendance, but lost a lot of students over the past few years. These schools also have a low graduation rate or one that’s at least below state average.

It Has Finally Happened!!

03/30/2015

The unthinkable has finally happened.

Friday, The Ruston Daily Leader printed an opinion piece actually critical of something that a government agency has done. Normally, the RDL is but a cheerleader for government, defending every action and every tax from the sheriff, the school board, the City of Ruston, and so on.

You know way more about the garden at the Lincoln Parish Detention Center than how many taxpayer dollars it takes to operate the facility, if you read the RDL.

Specifically, April Kelly has called into question the wisdom of District Attorney John Belton’s plan to set up speed traps in Lincoln Parish to help collect revenue to operate his office.

In her opinion piece titled “Speed trap or money trap?” Kelly concluded:

It is definitely a cause for concern when issuing tickets becomes more about financial gain than public safety.

See the article here.

Alleged Thievery at Simsboro Village Hall

03/30/2015

Ex-Simsboro Employee Took About $12,000, Audit Reveals

A former employee of the Village of Simsboro in Lincoln Parish used “unauthorized credits to utility billings” to cover the theft of approximately $12,000 in cash from utility collections, according to an audit report released Monday by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office.

The audit was performed for the state auditor by the accounting firm of Cameron, Hines and Co. of West Monroe.

The report did not identify the employee. However, it said the employee was fired, and the information about the thefts was turned over to the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The report said an exact amount of credits to customer accounts could not be precisely determined, but auditors said indications are it was “around $12,000. The alleged theft came to light as the accounting firm was performing the audit for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2014.

“The employee was not properly supervised,” the report said. “Safeguards were not installed within the software package for billing and payments to not allow credits to be entered by the employee.”

Village officials said in their response to the finding that, while it is not cost efficient to hire someone else to provide “some degree of checks and balances,” the mayor or an alderman “will review the accounting each month.” They said the village also now reviews credits to customer accounts on a monthly basis.

The accounting firm also found that the village was late in submitting its financial statements to the state auditor. The annual report for the fiscal year that ended last June was due in the auditor’s office by the end of December, but it was not filed until weeks past the deadline.

See here the complete audit report.

Caddo School Tax Update

03/29/2015

March 29, 2015

Readers may be aware that the Caddo Parish School Board and staff have decided they will not answer questions from the public when they – public employees – present their tax plan in public meetings held in public buildings. If they were willing to answer questions, I would ask this one:

“The core of your tax plan is the building of a $24,500,000 school in Southeast Shreveport, regardless that no school there is needed, and that building it seriously damages University Elementary School. How do you explain this to parents and staff who support University and any other damaged schools?”

Here We Go Again

In spite of its solid educational record over decades, this is the second time University Elementary has thus been set-up for a fall by the CPSB and staff. Should voters pass this plan, the attendance zones of the two schools would directly compete, as shown and explained below*.

The raw political power behind the would-be new school guarantees University’s enrollment will be cherry-picked … gutted … for the new school, as may well prove true for one or more schools to the west of I-49.

I detailed in an earlier article (see it here) how the $24,500,000 new school is the actual driver of this CPSB tax plan. I included there a link to a related Investigative Audit conducted by state officials after voters rejected that version of the same plan by more than 14-points, in 2002. That plan would have handed the CPSB a total of $62,000,000 for building projects, compared to $108,000,000 in this one.

Now, as school board members and administrators refuse to take that “No” for an answer, they also openly refuse to fill in the very important blanks about the new school. Unanswered questions include these:

… Will the school be built on or near Southern Loop at Norris-Ferry or Wallace Lake roads? If not, where?
… Is the school an intended part of marketing existing residential developments? If so, which ones?
… Do any CPSB members have conflicts-of-interest, legal and/or ethical, in promoting this project?
… What will be the attendance zone of the new school, and is not federal court agreement required?

How University Elementary School is Targeted

Those pushing the new school must, precisely as they attempted in the 2002, convince taxpayers and voters that University Elementary is overcrowded. If they fail in that yarn-spinning, their case collapses, and the real reasons behind the new school proposal will jump out like a Halloween haint.

The CPSB tale is that University Elementary “overcrowding” is the result of recent population migration to Southeast Shreveport, as if such a shift, in and of itself, justifies a new school to the south.

In fact, general population growth – whether by migration or otherwise – is not synonymous with growth of school-aged populations. Those selling the new school do not account for (a) households with or without children, (b) empty-nesters versus couples of child-bearing age, (c) those of child-bearing age who do or do not care to have children, or (d) parents who will never enroll their children in a public school.

There is no student population along and around the Southern Loop waiting and longing for their very own new school. That school’s students must be taken from other schools, particularly University Elementary.

Additional facts are these:

(1) The Census Bureau reports that between 1990 and the most recent data of 2013, the population of school-aged children in Caddo Parish, those birth-to-19 years old, dropped -10.8%. Since 1970, CPSB enrollment has dropped one-third – 20,000 fewer students – yet we still have as many or more schools.

(2) University’s enrollment is dropping, from 988 in 2012-2013, to 941 last year, down to 926 this year.

(3) In 2001, with University enrollment at 866, taxpayers spent $2.2 million to mitigate overcrowding at University by constructing a wing of 18 new classrooms. Now, with those 18 additional classrooms, we have only 60 more children enrolled. Reductions in teacher-pupil ratios and new classes of pre-kindergarten children in no way diminish the obvious meaning of this fact. If anyone is still in doubt, note the principal’s comment, below.

(4) Public and private school enrollment totals in East / Southeast Shreveport are flat-to-negative … NOT growing:

a. there are 14 fewer students than 15 years ago, in this area’s public elementary schools – A. C. Steere, Arthur Circle, Riverside and University. (Shreve Island Elementary, also in this area, accepts students from outside its attendance zone.)

b. there are only 32 more students than 15 years ago in the private schools primarily serving this area – St. Joseph’s, Southfield, St. Marks, First Baptist, St. John’s, and Montessori.

(5) If University Elementary was overcrowded, which it certainly is not, the solution given all the available land at the school would be to add another wing. The cost would be $3,000,000 or less, compared to $24,500,000 for the proposed new school.

A Pertinent and Potent Message From the Arbiter

As if to provide the period at the end of any sentence about overcrowding at her school, here is what University Elementary principal Kasie Mainiero told The Times and KTBS Television in an interview as school began last fall:

“We’re not by any means overcrowded. I hear that all the time and we aren’t a small elementary school, but we are not bursting at the seams. We have room to grow and my class sizes stay small or smaller than other schools.”

University Elementary School is not overcrowded.

I applaud, and hope to help protect, the University Elementary parents, children and staff who once again face a grossly unfair and unnecessary hit to their school.

Elliott Stonecipher

Stone Not Running for Lincoln Sheriff?

03/27/2015

Area voters have been recently “robo-polled” on several potential candidates for Lincoln Parish Sheriff, Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) has learned.

The automated calls originated from a 225 area code, which would indicate the Baton Rouge area. LPNO was told the call begins by claiming that incumbent Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone has indicated to some of his supporters that he may not seek reelection this fall.

Several names are mentioned as possible candidates: Chad Alexander, Jim Tuten, and Stephen Williams (all LPSO deputies); and Randall Hermes, now Chief of the LA Tech Police, and former Ruston PD Chief. The call then asks the voter to make a selection.

Adding to the speculation that Stone may not run is the lack of money in his campaign fund. As of 1/8/15, Stone had but $4,200 on hand.

See here the document.

Monroe Council Budget MORE Than Mayo Budget

03/27/2015

The Fiscal Year 2015-2016 general fund budget for the City of Monroe that was introduced by the Monroe City Council at Tuesday’s meeting was either $1 million or $2 million MORE than that proposed by Mayor Jamie Mayo, according to budget documents reviewed by Lincoln Parish News Online.

Ever since the council budget was revealed, Mayo has been baying that it would be “catastrophic” to the city’s operations. Also, city department heads flocked to the Tuesday meeting and one after the other caterwauled that their departments would be crippled from “cuts” if the Mayo budget wasn’t adopted.

Either they don’t know how to read a spreadsheet, or they were dissembling.

According to the council’s general fund summary, the Mayo budget predicts revenues of $59,094,042.00, and expenditures of $59,125,076.00. The council budgeted $60,094,842.00 in revenue, with the same amount of expenditures, about $1 million more.

See here the document.

A footnote says all the figures for 2014, 2015, and departmental requests for 2016 were supplied by the administration.

However, the Mayo budget general fund summary that was supplied in the information packet for Tuesday’s meeting showed projected revenues of $58,058,028.00 and expenditures of $56,486,746.00, or $2 million less in revenues and $4 million less in expenditures.

See here the document.

See here the complete council budget document.

Of course, you’ll never see this analysis in The (Monroe, LA) News Star, as their fiscal stupidity is legendary.

Ouachita Parish Library Book Sale This Weekend

03/26/2015

Dates: Friday, March 27 and Saturday, March 28

Time: 9am-3pm

Where: West Ouachita Library, 188 Hwy 546, West Monroe, La 71291 (Exit 108 from I-20)

Solution to Higher Ed Funding Woes?

03/25/2015

The Numbers Don’t Lie About Grambling And SUNO, They Need To Be Closed

By Kevin Boyd
March 25

As The Hayride wrote yesterday, State Rep. Patrick Jefferson (D-Homer) has filed a bill to bailout Grambling and SUNO. He wants to give both schools, along with Southern and other historically black universities, a special exemption for out of state students on tuition. If an out of state student wants to attend a Louisiana HBU, they would pay the in-state tuition. It’s a bailout for Grambling and SUNO, who are bleeding students.

The math is very clear, the market is trying to kill both of these schools. Grambling is out in the middle of nowhere and suffers from chronic mismanagement. SUNO is just a horrible school by any measure.

Let’s first compare enrollment between Grambling and SUNO versus the five largest four-year schools in Louisiana: LSU, ULL, SLU, La Tech, and UNO.

Grambling has 4,504 students in 2014-15, according to a UL system press release. Last year, Grambling had 5,071 students enrolled, or a 11.18% decline from year to year.

SUNO has 2,734 students in 2014-15, according to the Louisiana Board of Regents. Last year, SUNO had 3,172 students enrolled, or a 13.81% decline from year to year.

Let’s contrast that with the enrollments at LSU (30,700 students and 3,469 black students), ULL (17,514 students and 3,432 black students), SLU (14,510 students and 2,147 black students), LA Tech (11,291 students and 1,456 black students), and UNO (9,234 students and 1,375 black students). LSU and ULL have around a 1,000 black students less than Grambling’s total enrollment and crush SUNO’s total enrollment. SLU has 600 fewer black students than the total enrollment at SUNO.

If given options, black students who qualify for TOPS are almost as likely to choose one of the big five schools, or one of the other schools in the UL system than pick Grambling or SUNO. At the rate Grambling is losing students, LSU and ULL black student population will likely surpass Grambling’s total enrollment in a few years. SLU’s black student population will likely surpass SUNO’s total enrollment in the next year or so.

There is another damning statistic for both schools, their terrible graduation rates. As we pointed out yesterday, SUNO’s graduation rate is an abysmal 11.2% and Grambling’s is a slightly better rate at 31.7%. To be fair, UNO’s and SLU’s graduation rates aren’t that great either (32.1% and 35.8%). But both schools are predominately commuter schools and cater heavily to part-time students, as does SUNO, so the graduation rates will usually be lower. The state graduation rate average is 45% across all four-year schools just for comparison.

Enrollment wise, students are voting with their feet and leaving both schools. Graduation rates are extremely poor at both schools, especially when compared to the state average. If this wasn’t enough to damn both schools, there’s one final piece of evidence about Grambling.

In 2013, a member of the Southern Board of Supervisors wanted to kick Grambling out of the Bayou Classic. The Superdome Management also considered it last summer. The reason, the lack of support from Grambling fans who did not attend the game. Instead of making nasty comments and crying “raaaaaacism!” when someone criticizes Grambling, maybe Grambling grads should support their university.

The market is trying to kill both Grambling and SUNO. The Louisiana legislature should let the market work in the upcoming session and pull the plug.

Mayo’s Budget Amended on 3-1 Vote

03/25/2015

Controversial Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo’s 2015-2016 budget for the City of Monroe was amended at last night’s meeting on a 3-1 vote, and replaced with a budget crafted by the City Council.

Voting for the council budget were Armstrong, Blakes, and Wilson. Ezernack voted no, and Clark was not present.

The move didn’t sit well with Mayo, who exploded into a tirade, and accused Council Chair Ray Armstrong of lying, when he said he tried to meet with the administration.

Fumed Mayo, “They are not true, and you know they are not true.”

Armstong replied that he had emailed Mayo to ask for a meeting, and he had declined. Armstrong said he had the emails to prove his assertion.

Many department heads also spoke up against the council’s budget, which in many instances apparently were the same monetary amounts as was spent in last year’s budget.

Armstrong was not successful in getting the votes for an ordinance that would require bids for professional services. That motion failed on a 2-2 vote, with Ezernack and Wilson voting no.

As with the budget, many city department heads opposed the ordinance, saying it would cause undue delay in the city’s business.

Also commenting was CenturyLink VP & Assistant General Counsel Carrick Inabnett, who claimed to be speaking on behalf of the company.

Inabnett said he saw no reason to change procedures, as corruption wasn’t a problem with the city. Armstrong had said with a bid process, favoritism for preferred contractors would be less likely.

Said Inabnett, “With respect to this particular bid process, we’re unaware of any criminal or civil action that addresses this particular issue.”

Inabnett apparently forgot about the two former Monroe councilmen who were recently convicted for bribery and are serving time in federal prison, Robert “Red” Stevens and Arthur Gilmore.