• Swamp Watch

Taxpayers Funding Lavish School Board Conferences

The Louisiana School Boards Association just wrapped up the annual Southern Region Leadership Conference. How much did taxpayers spend to fund it?

Every year, the Louisiana School Boards Association partners with their counterparts in Arkansas and Mississippi for the "Southern Region Leadership Conference", a pricey three-day long conference featuring school board members, superintendents, and other school administrators from all three states. The conference rotates between the states, with last year's being held at the Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi Mississippi, and next year's being slated for Hot Springs, Arkansas.

This year's Southern Region Leadership Conference (SRLC), which ended last night, was hosted by the Louisiana School Boards Association, at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside.

These events are pricey, with the LSBA reporting spending nearly $400,000 on "conferences, conventions, and meetings" in 2017, and over $400,000 in 2019- the last two times they have hosted the SRLC.

Each year that LSBA hosts, they recruit exhibitors and sponsors to help fund the conference, in addition to the registration fees they charge for school board members to attend. In 2017, they reported nearly $220,000 in revenue from the SRLC exhibitors, sponsors, and registration fees, and nearly $300,000 in 2019. In both 2017 and 2019, that leaves the LSBA between $100,000-$180,000 short of funding the conference with exhibitors, sponsors, and registrations. As we've pointed out in the past, the largest chunk of LSBA's funding comes from local taxpayers, in the form of membership dues paid by local school boards. If the LSBA is coming up short of the hundreds of thousands of dollars the conference costs, it seems that taxpayers are stuck with spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make up the difference.

Of course, these aren't the only taxpayer dollars going into funding the conferences. Records from Jefferson Parish and Lafayette Parish, among others, show taxpayers footing the bill for school board members to attend LSBA's conferences, including the SRLC. This year, the cost of registration was a whopping $495 per person- funded by local taxpayers.

For an organization that fights against the best interests of Louisiana students, and constantly says transparency is too expensive for taxpayers, the LSBA sure does seem OK with having taxpayers foot the bill for their conferences. Unfortunately, due to the LSBA's taxpayer-funded lobbying efforts against requiring school boards to report their expenditures, it will be years before they have to report their revenue and expenses for this year's conference. Despite their best efforts to deny transparency, we will do just that as we work over the coming weeks to answer the question, just how many taxpayer dollars went into this year's conference?

You can read all of our past stories on Louisiana's education swamp here.

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