• Swamp Watch

Despite Billions in Unspent Funds, School Leaders Oppose Higher Standards

Updated: Oct 26

Education Swamp Leaders Have Cited a Lack of Resources as a Barrier to Implementing Tougher Accountability Rules in Public Schools, Yet They're Flush With Unspent COVID Relief Money.

Louisiana's Education Swamp leaders, including the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and Louisiana Schools Boards Association, have long fought efforts to hold our poorly-ranked public schools to a higher standard. Just last year, these organizations joined together to hide poor performance scores, seeking to keep families and taxpayers completely in the dark about the dire performance of Louisiana's public schools under their leadership.

As the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education prepares to discuss changes to the accountability system, the education swamp is once again citing concerns about "financial constraints". Of course, this is a familiar refrain from these organizations, who use a lack of funds as an excuse to oppose transparency in their spending and school choice, while spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on lavish conferences.

However, concerns about "financial constraints" are hard to take seriously when school districts are currently flush with COVID Relief Funds. Louisiana schools overall received $3.29 Billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds to help schools recover from the learning loss during the pandemic.

Of the over $3 billion in funds, school districts have spent just $800 million so far, leaving over 75%, or $2.5 billion, of the funds unspent. With so much money left to spend, would now not be the best time to invest in raising the bar and providing students with the education they deserve? Not according to many local school leaders, who have viciously opposed the efforts. In fact, many of these leaders have millions of dollars left unspent in their districts.

The Louisiana Association of School Superintendents' President, Patrick Jenkins, has organized much of the opposition. He also serves as Superintendent in St. Landry Parish, a district that has received nearly $125 million in relief funds. Of that $125 million, only $14.2 million has been spent, or just 11%.

In St. Helena Parish, Superintendent Kelli Joseph wrote in a letter to The Advocate that districts like hers "lack resources" to implement the changes the way "more affluent" districts can. Of the $11.1 million her district has received, just $2.72 million, or 24.5%, has been spent.

Louisiana Association of School Superintendents' Vice-President David Claxton, who serves as the Superintendent in Jackson Parish, has helped lead the charge against the changes as a member of LASS Leadership. Like other districts, they still have millions left to spend, with only using $4.6 million, or just under 30%, of their funding.

These are just a few examples of Superintendents who have said they can't afford to raise the bar for students, while leaving tens of millions of relief dollars unspent, and failing to prioritize their funds to make sure Louisiana students are getting the education they, and taxpayers, deserve.

If the trouble is truly funding, perhaps we need better school leaders who will better prioritize the large amounts of money at their disposal, rather than always resorting to "No" when it comes to doing what is right by the children of the state.

You can read all of our past stories on the Superintendents Association and Louisiana's education swamp here. Sign up here to receive future stories direct to your inbox. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates!