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BOBBY ARDOIN Editor/Consulting Writer

The St. Landry Parish School Board overwhelmingly passed a resolution during a special meeting Monday night, asking state lawmakers to reject proposed legislation that board members say will begin using public funding for private school tuition and other educational expenses.

During discussion prior to the vote, board members indicated that Louisiana House Bill 745 which is primarily sponsored by District 39 Republican Julie Emerson, seeks to channel state revenues now provided to school districts for each student and replace it with a direct funding program that parents can use to finance any educational costs for their children .

The Board voted 12-1 in support of the resolution.

Board member Tiffany Nolan voted against the resolution. Nolan said that she was supporting the sentiments for many of the constituents in District 11, who Nolan said are in agreement with language contained in HB 745.

“This is not a good thing for public schools. If this bill passes, students can also leave one (public school) district and go to another one and take that money with them,” said board member Robert Gautreaux.

Gatureaux added that if HB 745 is implemented, teachers now working in public school districts could be lured away in order to work in private or charter schools.

Board member Milton Ambers said that public school districts are not being given credit for the effort they are making in education.

“We have to take (the students) that are given to us, no matter what’s walking through the door,” Ambres said.

Provisions Of The Bill

Administered by the Louisiana Department of Education, the savings accounts for each student beginning in 2025-26, could be used for tuition, curriculum, tutoring or other educational expenses that parents might need, according to sponsors of the bill.

Supporters of HB 745 also contend that the ESA’s will give parents more flexibility in making educational choices for students and perhaps moving their children away from having to attend low performing schools.

The money parents would receive for participating could be used for expenses at private and faith-based schools, homeschooling or educational services associated with students’ special needs, proponents of the bill have said.

The Situation In St. Landry

Finance Director Shaun Grantham stated in her annual budget message issued in June, that demographic trends show St. Landry is losing students annually, a trend that is reducing the amount of state revenue that is provided each year for each child who attends classes in the District.

On Monday night Grantham said the financial situation in the district remains stable. However Grantham again said that she is still concerned about the annual decline in the number of students.

St. Landry now has two state-supported  charter schools — J.S. Clark Leadership Academy and St. Landry Charter School – which each enroll approximately 300 students.