• Swamp Watch

Louisiana Schools Boards Association: What are Taxpayers Getting for their Money?

Updated: May 19

It’s no secret to Louisianans: despite some of the most innovative people in the world, despite our rich natural supply of natural resources, and a culture steeped in hospitality, we are losing our friends, family, and neighbors to other states at an alarming rate. One of many reasons is the dismal performance of our public school system that forces many parents into spending tens of thousands of dollars on private school, or leaving Louisiana altogether.

We all know the game in Louisiana- those with connections win, and the rest of us are left in the dust. At Louisiana Swamp Watch, we are dedicated to identifying the special interests holding Louisianans back and educating Louisianans on the conflicts, corruption, and collusion that keep us in last place.

Every Louisianan knows that our K-12 education system is one of the lowest-ranked in the country, blocking Louisiana children from future opportunities. Whenever the topic of education reform comes up in the state legislature, many groups are quick to engage. One of those groups is the Louisiana School Boards Association, whose public mission is “Leadership, Service and Support for School Boards”. For several years, the LSBA has been one of the most involved organizations in lobbying the Louisiana legislature. They’ve advocated against school choice policies, against stronger accountability measures for public schools, against transparency in public school funding, and against teacher discretion over curriculum. For this advocacy, the LSBA paid at least 2 lobbyists more than $100,000 per year.

With this, we decided to look into the financials of the Louisiana School Boards Association and see why they would oppose accountability, transparency, and choice. In 2020, the LSBA took in over $2,000,000 dollars. With a mission of “support for school boards”, one would hope that a large amount of that money went to monetary support for our local schools. However, just the opposite is true. Over one-third of LSBA’s 2020 revenue actually came from membership dues- taxpayer dollars from local schools given to LSBA, to the tune of $736,260 dollars. LSBA membership dues are based on district size- with the Lafayette School Board, the state’s 6th largest, paying over $20,000 a year to be a part of LSBA.

With over one-third of their funding coming from taxpayers, we might expect LSBA to provide significant support to our public schools. However, since 2016, LSBA has reported $340,000 in “public support grants” to “financially assist public schools, mainly in Louisiana”. That pales in comparison to the $404,000 LSBA spent on travel alone in 2020. Yes, in one year, in which the economy and schools were shut down because of a global pandemic, LSBA spent more on travel than they have on “support for school boards” in a four-year period.

Perhaps this is why the LSBA stopped accepting state grants in 2012. That year, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor looked into the finances of LSBA, as they accepted over $230,000 in government grants. That was also the same fiscal year that a long-time LSBA employee was arrested for embezzlement, and the LSBA Executive Director was fired for allegedly “knowing about the missing funds” and having “attempted to cover it up”, later being indicted for accessory to felony theft. Following the theft and cover up, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, who found “two material weaknesses” and “three significant deficiencies” in the LSBA’s internal controls, audited LSBA. Those included blank checks accessible to all employees, inconsistent invoice approval processes, and the ability for checks to be signed via pre-made stamps. Because LSBA stopped accepting government grants after the audit, there is no way of knowing if these issues were ever addressed- despite the fact that much of their funding still comes from taxpayers in the form of “membership dues”.

Over the years, the LSBA has been involved in some of the most consequential debates on education policy in Louisiana. With our still low rankings on educational outcomes, it’s difficult to believe they have looked out for the best interests of Louisiana students and parents, despite being largely funded by their tax dollars. In our next piece, we will look at some of the LSBA’s recent advocacy and let you be the judge.