• Swamp Watch

Superintendents Push Anti-Student Agenda To Local Chamber

Ascension Parish Chamber Sides With Education Swamp Over Business Community

Last week, the Ascension Parish Chamber of Commerce curiously sent a letter to BESE Members asking them to oppose Superintendent Cade Brumley's newest proposal to hold high schools in Louisiana to higher standards for student achievement. You can see their letter below:

This is an interesting position for a business group to take, as business-minded organizations have typically supported higher standards that lead to a better workforce. In fact, three business groups, including the state's chamber of commerce and the Council for a Better Louisiana, have urged BESE to adopt the new standards after months of discussion and delay.

Why would a local chamber of commerce come out against something supported by most of the business community in the state?

It turns out, the Ascension Parish Chamber has an unusual conflict of interest when it comes to education policy: David Alexander, the Superintendent of Ascension Parish Public Schools, sits on the board of the Ascension Chamber of Commerce. It is very uncommon for local government officials, including a school superintendent, to sit on the board of their local chamber for exactly this reason- it presents a conflict when the chamber chooses to take a position on important public policy issues that affect their local schools. While business groups across the state are prioritizing a better education for students, this one seems to be prioritizing the agenda of its Superintendent to avoid tougher accountability.

Consistent with the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents talking points, the letter mentions "undetermined fiscal impact to schools with respect to required funding". As we've pointed out, this is a hollow argument at a time when schools are flush with billions in unspent COVID Relief funds, and are using those funds as a slush fund for infrastructure improvements, rather than investing in student learning.

Ascension Parish is no exception to using their COVID dollars as a slush fund, with nearly $10 million spent on facility improvements, including:

  • $5.4 million on 1600 "active boards" for virtual learning

  • $3.1 million on "major maintenance upgrades"

  • $640,000 for 800 security cameras for use for COVID contact tracing

  • $253,627 on an "HVAC Consultant"

Maybe Ascension Parish Public Schools would be able to afford implementing higher standards for its students if it wasn't using these dollars as a slush fund and buying equipment for contact tracing?

You can read all of our past stories on 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!