Last Modified: Wednesday, July 04, 2012 11:37 PM
Most times, announcement that a million dollars is headed toward your school is good news. Very good news.
But confirmation this week that Barbe High may receive that cool million in state money, apparently for the purpose of installing a synthetic turf football field, comes at an awkward time.
Bill Jongbloed, a former Barbe principal and now School Board representative for the Barbe area, said local public officials were not asked about nor informed about the funding request, which came through House Bill 2, the state’s capital outlay legislation. Jongbloed rightly noted that financially hard-pressed Louisiana is closing health care centers, cutting higher education and trimming its work force. Nonetheless, Barbe may get the money.
“Would I have asked for this? Of course not. I could not do it with all good conscience,” Jongbloed said.
The state money is designated for Barbe because Louisiana House Speaker Chuck Kleckley requested it. He said he made the request at the behest of Barbe’s coaching staff. He said Barbe has no taxing mechanism for raising funds for the field, so he put in for the money. The bill is listed as “Facilities Improvements, Planning and Construction ... Payable from General Obligation Bonds ... Priority 2.” The request is well-positioned for funding.
Kleckley makes no apologies for seeking the money. Maybe he shouldn’t. Influential lawmakers have been socking state money aside for pet projects for a long time. The project, he said, will save Barbe money for watering, cutting and painting the field. He may be right.
But there’s still a bad feel to this allocation at this time. It may feel wrong because it is wrong.
Let’s face it: If lawmakers were proud of this allocation it should have been trumpeted to the taxpaying public as a great thing, not floated beneath the radar. If Calcasieu Parish schools in general or Barbe High in particular wanted a superior, synthetic field funded at state expense, their elected representatives should have made the case in public. The school board did not ask for a new field; it was not a priority. In fact, Barbe’s current grass football field, used but a few times a year, is in fine shape.
If building a new field at state expense is important for Barbe, it should be important for LaGrange High School, too. Kleckley’s district includes neighborhoods zoned for LaGrange, where athletic facilities actually need some overhaul. Surely, LaGrange also wants to save money in watering, cutting and painting its football field.
In fact, there are more pressing capital projects around Barbe and in Calcasieu Parish. Certainly there are more important projects around Louisiana.
The money would be great. But there’s that whole “good conscience” thing.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.
Posted By: Mary K. Bellisario On: 7/6/2012
Title: The state as hypocrite
Not to mention that the state of Louisiana, unlike 43 other states, does NOT provide any funding for public school facility construction, renovation or maintenance, apparently except when it is politically expedient. Several times the legislature has voted down facility funding for public schools; and when such a bill has managed to pass the legislature, the governor vetoed it. Looks like the governor didn't interfere with Speaker Kleckly, under recall, when he wanted to use $1 million of the state's tax revenue for a facility project in his own district. And to deal with coaches and the media, rather than the duly elected school board members. How arrogant and disrespectful. No wonder he's under a recall.
Posted By: Dwight On: 7/6/2012
A question for the editorial and reporting staff of the Lake Charles American Press. "Kleckley’s district includes neighborhoods zoned for LaGrange," Is LaGrange an orphan because it's school zone is divided among three different legislative districts?
Posted By: Joey On: 7/6/2012
Title: Reprimand the Coaches
This is a clear example of the arrogance that coaches in general often display. To think that they could go over the heads of their bosses and approach the Speaker of the house for a project of this cost is arrogance at it's worst. For this they ought to be reprimanded and put on notice. I thought principals and the School Board made these decisions. When did Coaches start making them A very poor example in leadership has been set.
Posted By: Billiam On: 7/5/2012
Title: welcome to calcasieu parish
Years ago when I worked for the school board I realized how silly and corrupt the system was........nothing has changed except now the public can see how silly corrupt and sad things are............kleckley is a disgrace to himself and the coaches should all be fired.............yes fired.............they had no authority legally or morally to deal with chuck the corrupt jindal boy.........
Posted By: Christine On: 7/5/2012
$600,000 turf will save money on maintenance of the existing grass field?? Good golly, what are they paying to cut grass nowadays? If it's that expensive to cut grass and paint lines, give the players a little workout time with a mower and paint rollers!! Ridiculous!!
Posted By: bono On: 7/5/2012
Title: ...but School Board you do have an opportunity to be fiscally responsible
If the local school board doesn't see it as apppriate at this time and state of fiscal affairs, all they need to do is not vote to authorize the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement that is required for local governments to receive and spend such funds. Here's your chance local school board members to fix what is wrong and be fiscally responsible....and here's your chance Parish citizens and taxpayers to see if your Board members are genuine or just want to sound good.
Posted By: Dwight On: 7/5/2012
Title: The coaches are wrong.
If the coaches in fact approached Kleckley, they should be reprimanded by the principle, Mr. Jongbloed, and the school board for going around them in this gutless manner. I can understand them wanting a new field but to call Mr. Kleckley without informing their employers is not right. If there is a million dollars to spend on the school our local elected officials should decide on where it is spent.