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May 15, 2019

The school board met to hand out awards to graduating seniors and to adopt a budget. Which got the most attention? Yeah, it’s a trick question. The parents with the graduates did their job. But all of us still have work to do. 
With enrollment declining it gets harder to make ends meet in education but all is not lost. And there may even be reasons for optimism.
For one thing, the school board approved a transfer from the General Fund of the school board budget to District #1. This is the Jonesville schools’ special tax district. The money has a repayment schedule of four years but school board personnel anticipate a two-year pay back. The purpose of the money is to get Block High School ready to accept the students from Jonesville Junior High. School board members have told us that the savings from that consolidation will make the “loan”, or temporary transfer of funds, a very good investment.
And, oh, by the way, the board adopted its 2018/2019 combined budget. Now that puppy is 45 pages long because it takes a lot of writing and numbers to spend almost $18 million. Looking at the audit for the year ending June 30, 2017 this amount is up from then by about $950,000, give or take a few grand.
No new taxes have been proposed yet to meet this obligation, perhaps because most of the money to run Catahoula Parish public schools doesn’t come from Catahoula Parish. Of that nearly $18 million dollars, we pay only $3,286,000. The Federal government pays roughly the same.
The state of Louisiana is our big sugar daddy through the Minimum Foundations Program (MFP) and so forth. The MFP is how the state apportions cash based on both the number and type of students (special needs, gifted, etc.) that a school system serves. Of course, that’s your state sales, income, property and other taxes (and probably mostly someone else’s as well) being redistributed back to you. 
While at the end of the day we have a lot for which to be grateful, there are some sacrifices to be made before we will achieve anything like the stability and prosperity necessary to make Catahoula Parish and its schools the student (and parent) magnet good schools are. Ultimately, it will require dropping the paranoia of both black and white parents about consolidating the schools.
Oddly to some perhaps, racism is not actually the problem in the way of consolidation. It is cultural differences that could separate us all right, but they’re not necessarily grounded in race as much as in values, habits and plain old “home town”. For example, people in Sicily Island are loyal to their community just as are people in Harrisonburg or Larto. Community is important and we don’t want to lose it.
Nonetheless, circumstances that issue from a shrinking tax base will force changes on us that will be easier to accept if we are the ones who take the initiative to shape the change. We need to start thinking and talking with each other about what will make better schools in Catahoula. 
Nothing remains the same. It’s just how things are. But we can do a lot by our constructive involvement to make the difference better.