How a local school becomes lost

I’m sad for Albany and Springfield today along with the Hungarian Settlement between the two schools.

Today there was an election in both areas of Livingston Parish to increase the millage rates for ad valorem taxes dedicated to the respective schools.  In Springfield the proposal was to build a new high school.  In Albany it was to build a new elementary school.  Neither area has paid ad valorem taxes dedicated to schools for the past four (4) years.  The new millage proposals would have resulted in a significant property tax increase for some.

Both proposals failed, but that is not why I’m sad.

I’m sad because of the lies, disdain, condemnation, jealousy, selfishness, and hate.

Me personally, I cannot offer a learned opinion as to whether or not new elementary or high school buildings are needed.  Why?  Because even though I did enjoy a girls’ basketball game during my brief trip back in January and pointed out the state championship banners to a distinguished academic and internationally known physicist who flew down from DC with me for a conference presentation in New Orleans, I did not evaluate any facilities.  Heck I cannot tell you what grades are at the old high school building or at the old elementary school.  I only recall being at the junior high campus once and that was to help judge a social studies fair and to talk to some students  with a watered down version of my “History in Your Backyard” presentation that I once delivered to a number of communities.

Down in Springfield, I know I attended a playoff game years ago there between Albany and Newman.  I remember Archie Manning signing autographs on torn paper cups, but I don’t remember if Peyton played on that basketball team or if it was Eli (it may have been Cooper).  I may have driven past the school on many occasions since including back in January, but I do not recall being on campus since.

Admittedly my gut feeling is that a need exists for the new and additional campuses.  It’s not because of the age of the structures or the fact that a good portion of maintenance over the years has utilized the donated labor of students, teachers, administrators, and members of the community.  Money came from donations along with school and community fundraisers because tax dollars never seemed to be enough.

My gut feeling is that new and additional campuses are needed because the area has grown in development and population.  Get off at ole Exit 32 and head north and it looks like you got off the interstate in freakin’ Walker or Denham Springs, and that impression has nothing to do with the removal of the cattle guard.  Such development has its positive aspects, but admittedly I’m a bit nostalgic for the way things were.

Still I’m sad today not because of the past, and I really don’t care if anyone favors or opposes the millages on the respective ballots.  They do increase the tax burden for many.  Regardless of vote here, this burden will increase for all due to the state’s budget disaster.  Blame the new governor all you want, but that blame should be directed to his time as a state legislator.  His votes at that time aren’t the issue.  The issue is that he along with 143 other people were members of a body elected to represent the people while Bobby and his minions dismantled and devoured the state like boll weevils in a cotton field.

Opponents can spout welfare, Obama, and all these other reasons, but remember that thanks to Bobby and the “trickle down” mantra your state tax dollars paid $2.7 million of the $9 million Tom Cruise made in salary to film a movie.  Your state taxes paid Valero $10 million to create a total of 43 jobs in Norco.  Your parish tax dollars help subsidize Bass Pro and who knows how many Wally Worlds.  Yes these businesses have jobs, but are they the same pay and benefits an employee earned at a local Mom and Pop?  Yes these businesses bring in outside business, but do the financials offset the breaks?  What happened to the local and Mom and Pop businesses who did not receive the tax credits given to these giant chains?

Combine all the free loaders in the state, and they take significantly less than what is doled out in “corporate welfare” at the upper rungs of the economic ladder.  Blame Obama and the Democrats at the federal level but realize that Louisiana is one of the states that receive far more in federal assistance than it pays in federal taxes.  My current neighbors see our federal taxes subsidize people of Louisiana, both working and the so-called free loaders, and many people I know in Louisiana have more money saved and buying power than we do because of the cost of living differences.

It boils the bile in my gut, and I want to explode in anger because when I hear Members of Congress talking about “lazy good-for-nothing” people living off the hard work of others, they aren’t talking about the people I labeled as “takers” back home.  They are talking about the hardworking honest people who bust their tails to put food on the table for their families; people like my Dad and Albany and Springfield classmates.  That’s bull@#$^, but it’s a fact of national politics.

Now why did I type “lies, disdain, condemnation, jealousy, selfishness, and hate?”

The amounts some claim that these ad valorem taxes will increase property taxes are insane and flat out lies.  This is a millage spike, especially considering that neither community has paid ad valorem taxes for schools in the past 4 years and rates before that were artificially low.  Still why lie about the amount?  If it’s an honest mistake on your part, I think that’s an argument in favor of both school millage increases.

I typed disdain and condemnation because it’s always someone else’s fault.  They claim that teachers aren’t doing their jobs.  Well in some respects that is true but they aren’t doing their jobs as teachers because they are forced to spend time trying to parent the students.  Some even want teachers to be the religious instructors as well even though these same people contend those teachers aren’t doing their jobs.

Folks I have yet to confront anything strong enough to kick God out of anything.  Now I think it’s possible not to let God in, but once God is there it’s the people who leave.  Nothing has ever prevented me from praying or worshipping whenever I choose.  My reason to pray or worship is not for others to see me in the act; it’s because I feel the need; have the desire; and have the hope and responsibility that my body of work as a whole will help and inspire others to treat others as neighbors and equals.  It’s not easy being the only person who looks different or believes differently than the thousand in the same area, but at times it is necessary.

Jealousy and selfishness because some are arguing well I have more property and will pay more than you so your opinion is worth less than mine.  Some propose why should I pay for others who will pay less or nothing.  It’s a dog eat dog world, survival of the fittest.  Start building levies then higher than the sky because if your small pond overflows or if something breaches your levy and you find yourself in a larger pond, remember that your survival of the fittest still applies.

Just because something was good enough for you or me doesn’t mean that others should have the same ceilings or be faced with the same limitations.  What if the residents say 25 years ago had not paid millages in the 80 range?  What if they had received that 4 year break of zero ad valorem taxes for schools?  Heck what if they had only agreed to pay initial rates below 50?

Hate is a strong word and perhaps unjust, but why didn’t people castigating those supporting these proposals now bring up their concerns back at the school board meetings?  If they were uninformed about what was happening, perhaps they don’t have enough knowledge or desire to learn enough to make them qualified to discuss the matter.  That’s why lies and innuendo are necessary to bolster their position.  It takes work to develop alternative measures, and just like national politics even locals are discovering that it’s much easier to just blame someone else, complain, wait for someone else to fix things, and find fault no matter what.

I’ve seen some well thought out reasons to vote NO.  Some of those I personally would not consider valid, but I certainly respect them because they are facts and honest assessments.  I can say the same about voting YES.  Some I consider as valid arguments and others are not convincing to me.

I do not have a vote.  Honestly I’m glad because I do not have enough information to make what I consider an informed choice.  I can say, however, that if I were vehemently opposed I would have been speaking out at the school board meetings prior to the election.  I’d bombard them with a narrative much longer this post, and I would have at minimum triple the amount of citations to the current codes, historical data, and comparative analyses.  That’s an ole fashioned approach, and it takes both knowledge and effort.

My opinion is that this election is sad result from many perspectives including the influence of inaccurate information, some possibly malicious in origin, but disheartening because of an apparent lack of knowledge of Louisiana constitutional law and Parish governance.  STEM disciplines are needed and should be stressed.  Many fulfilling and necessary vocations require skills and knowledge that are acquired in manners other than higher education.  Degrees do not equate success and multiple paths exist to careers to provide for one’s family and to be vital parts of a community.  Disciplines within Humanities and Social Sciences are often discredited for a lack of job specific training, but even rudimentary knowledge in fields such as history and political science would have minimized the effects of the misrepresentations and votes based upon false fears because the system has already negated that possibility.  Fields of sociology, art, languages, music, all help us to communicate which even with technology often seems a lost art today.

I’m not “friends” on social media with the people former classmates told me were some of the most vocal in opposition.  I do recognize the families because of last names, but most of these people I do not know personally.  Some screenshots sent to me, however, illustrate why we need to emphasize education in the Humanities and Social Sciences because many of those vehemently opposed had no clue about where to find election results before the late night local news out of either Baton Rouge or New Orleans.

I no longer reside in the area so I’m not qualified to offer learned opinions as to whether or not the new construction in both Albany and Springfield was in fact needed.  I’m just thankful that during my public schooling members of the community were willing to approve even higher millage rates dedicated to the schools than the amounts proposed on this ballot.  Thank you to people like Ms. Nancy and Mr. Russell, Mr. Jessie (RIP), my Mom (RIP), Uncle (RIP), who may have not been official teachers but gave and sacrificed for community, school, and we students because they wanted better for us than they had.

It’s funny to current colleagues how I can relate grades K through 12 as Ms. Mary through her brother Coach; principals along that path being Mr. Johnny, Mr. Gerald, and Mr. P; caring teachers too numerous to name without unintentionally leaving off some who influenced me well beyond the classroom.  Funny because despite degrees later earned, I still begin answering the question of where did I go to school by saying Albany regardless of my residence at the time or if the person asking answers the same question with a place like Doyle or Live Oak or today when their answer is usually Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Emory, or Duke.  See I was blessed to attend a community centered public school.

If it’s easy enough to just point a finger at someone, then it won’t be long or take much for someone to be pointing a finger back.  They were them right up until the point that we became one of them and then they and we were us.