Rep. Jeff Thompson seeks to remove the consent decree for Bossier Parish
In the midst of an ongoing debate on education, a local state representative has sought the help of Gov. Bobby Jindal with an issue that could take students out of Bossier Parish schools if not addressed with the proposed reform plan.
Representative Jeff Thompson, District 8, expressed his concerns about the state consent decree to Jindal last week at the House of Representatives education committee meeting in Baton Rouge. According to Thompson, the federal government issued the consent decree years ago to prohibit public school children from leaving their assigned school district to attend a higher performing school within their same parish.
“If you live in an attendance zone at Airline, you must go to that school,” Thompson said. “Those lines are drawn to take into consideration racial populations so that there is desegregation and the area is representative of the population.”
His concerns, however, are with Jindal’s proposed voucher program and that his overall “school of choice” concept doesn’t work in parishes that fall under the consent decree, including Bossier.
“Under part of [Jindal’s] plan, a student from one parish can attend a higher performing school in another parish. They should be able to attend well-performing schools in their own parish, but they can’t because of the consent decree,” Thompson said. “The Governor’s plan, while it fits well in some areas of the state, does not necessarily apply to Bossier schools.”
In order to remove the consent decree, Thompson said the decision goes to the Department of Justice, which he said will be an expensive undertaking.
“You have to fight it in court to have it considered and lifted,” Thompson said. “We don’t have the budget to do that so we can’t afford that fight.”
That’s why Thompson asked for Jindal’s assistance, as well as help from the Attorney General for the state of Louisiana, in filing the papers to lift the consent decree as it relates to the school systems that are still subject to its provisions. Jindal did verbally support Thompson’s request at the meeting in Baton Rouge Wednesday.
“Absolutely, we would be willing to help those districts,” Jindal said before the education committee. “We know how important that is for different school districts and would absolutely be willing to provide whatever help we can from the state level.”
Jindal also said in his testimony that the number one obstacle for achieving higher national rankings on a state level is education.
“If we want to continue to out perform the national economies, education has to be a top priority for moving this state forward,” Jindal said.
Thompson said by eliminating the consent decree, every student in the parish would have the chance to get the best education possible within their home district.
“Getting out from under the consent decree would provide them with great flexibility and be able to offer every student the same type of school choice that best suits that individual’s needs.”