Thursday, May 28, 2009

LFT works for school building program

LFT Legislative Director Alison Ocmand speaks at a press conference in support of two bills that would help rebuild Louisiana's crumbing education infrastructure. With Ocmand are Representative Karen Clark Peterson, left, and Senator Cheryl Gray Evans.

Louisiana's elementary and secondary schools are in deplorable condition - an estimate by the American Federation of Teachers pegs the cost of needed repairs and new construction at some $7.3 billion.

Two bills working their way through the legislature this year provide an answer to the problem. SB 90 by Sen. Cheryl Gray Evans (D-New Orleans) and HB 689 by Rep. Karen Clark Peterson (D-New Orleans) would set up and fund the Louisiana Statewide Education Facilities Authority.

The seven-member commission would provide funding, coordination, assistance and oversight for the repair, renovation and construction of public school facilities. Identical legislation was passed by the legislature last year, but was vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Opponents say that school buildings are traditionally the responsibility of local school boards and voters, and say they are concerned that the commission would make local governments too reliant on state government to solve their problems.

But as Ocmand said in her statement to the news media, “When we consider the enormity of the problem, it is obvious that very few, if any, school systems have the resources to provide the kind of schools that all of our children deserve. We can no longer assume that building and maintaining schools is solely a local issue. The state and the federal government must play a role in replacing our crumbling schools.

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