In The News › ‘Yes’ on three Orleans Parish school tax renewals | Editorial

‘Yes’ on three Orleans Parish school tax renewals | Editorial

By The Times-Picayune Editorial Board

October 3, 2017

The Times-Picayune editorial board makes the following recommendations for the Oct. 14 ballot. Early voting is open through Saturday, Oct. 7.

ORLEANS PARISH SCHOOL BOARD

PROPOSITION A

To renew a 1.55 mill property tax for textbooks for 10 years

Yes

PROPOSITION B

To renew a 1.55-mill property tax for dropout prevention for 10 years

Yes

PROPOSITION C

To renew a 7.27-mill property tax for teacher salaries and benefits for 10 years

Yes

New Orleans’ public schools have made significant progress over the past decade. Before 2008, nearly half of city students attended failing schools. Last year, only 10 percent attended a school in the bottom tenth in Louisiana, according to Democrats for Education Reform.

In 2008, only 40 percent of students scored at grade level on state tests. That was far lower than the 57 percent statewide who tested at grade level. The gap has closed dramatically. By 2016, 61 percent of city students were at grade level compared with 67 percent statewide.

Average ACT scores for New Orleans high school students have risen from a composite score of 17.0 in 2005 to 18.9 in 2017 on the 36-point test. That growth means thousands more students are eligible for college.

But there is much more to do to ensure that every child in New Orleans has access to an excellent public school. Providing essential resources for schools is a vital part of that.

The Proposition A tax produces an estimated $5.7 million annually for textbooks, instructional equipment and materials, library books and school supplies citywide. Another $5.7 million is produced by Proposition B to pay for programs to improve discipline practices and prevent students from dropping out. And Proposition C’s 7.27-mill tax generates $26.6 million each year for teacher salaries and benefits.

Losing that money would be a serious hardship for schools. “Failure to renew the millages would subtract a significant source of funding from school budgets citywide. The School Board has no other source of revenue to offset that loss, meaning the consequences for Orleans public schools would be severe,” according to the Bureau of Governmental Research. “For example, a school of 600 students would lose more than $500,000 in annual operating revenue. This could force increases in the student-to-teacher ratio or cuts to school programs and activities.”

These are all existing taxes that have been paid by property owners since 1988. The taxes would be renewed at their current rates, so there would be no increase, BGR said.

The BGR report also noted that the Orleans Parish School Board, which is taking back control of all city schools, has proved to be a good steward of public money post-Katrina. The school system “has improved transparency and accountability in its budgeting. In addition, it has committed to increase transparency and oversight of individual schools’ spending of the three millages up for renewal,” BGR said. “These factors give confidence to voters that the tax renewals would be well spent.”

Ensuring that New Orleans children get a top-notch education is vital not only to them but to the future of the city. These taxes are essential to that effort.

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