Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Independent Group Calls School Facilities Master Plan "Troubling"

So all the regular readers of this blog know very well where I stand on the school facilities master plan. I've been pushing this petition to extend the deadline for public comment on the master plan because the OPSB appears ready to rubber stamp the document when we know that some of them have not even read it. If you haven't, you should go sign that petition.

But maybe you're reluctant. Maybe you're saying to yourself,"That Eli is so smart and good looking. The analysis at his blog is so wise and interesting to read. But I still don't know if I should sign that petition or weigh in on the schools master plan. I don't know enough about it to know if he knows enough about it."

Maybe you'd be more convinced if my criticisms were buttressed by something a little bit more independent think tank-y. If that's the case, I urge you to see what is said in a brief from the non-profit and non-partisan Bureau of Governmental Research.

First, they agree that the consequences of accepting the document are wide-ranging and far-reaching:

If adopted, it will set the course for the development of New Orleans public schools for decades to come. It will guide decisions as to which schools are closed, which are built or renovated, and when and where.

Then, they break it down, emphasis mine:

The catch is that implementation depends on funding, and there are solid prospects only for Phase I, which has a price tag of $675 million. School officials estimate that they can cobble together between $100 million and $200 million for Phase II. But that leaves a gap of $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion for the remainder of the plan.

The Plan makes no assessment of whether this gap can realistically be funded. The section on finances merely provides a brief discussion of possible funding mechanisms. These include general obligation bonds, local property taxes, local sales taxes, sharing of facilities, state funds, federal funds, lease-purchase arrangements, sales of assets and public-private partnerships. The Plan does not provide revenue estimates for these sources, nor does it discuss the likelihood that they will materialize. School officials and planners confirmed that the planning process did not attempt to address these issues. An assessment of the financing for Phases II through VI was outside the scope of the Plan.

This is troubling. Facilities planning without a realistic assessment of financial resources for these phases is at best an exercise in visioning. At worst, it projects the illusion that all students will have access to world class schools. But, according to school officials, only half of the projected student population would have such facilities if Phase I alone were funded. The other half would not.

How does that sound for your school system? One half has while other half does not? Sounds exactly like the type of new New Orleans we all envisioned doesn't it?

So it's very serious. This is why you and all your friends should come down to City Hall tomorrow morning at 10 AM to hear testimony on the school facilities master plan. It is the public's last opportunity to provide comment on the document - which is why this petition needs to get much thicker over the next 12-18 hours. SIGN IT!


jeffrey said...

Actually the BGR is often quite full of shit itself.

But I do know enough about the facilities master plan to know that you know enough about it.

jeffrey said...

On the other hand I don't sign petitions

E said...

Jeffrey, you can't make an exception? Just this once? Just to prove that I know enough about the master plan? What if Deuce signed it?

jeffrey said...

I'm pretty sure that Deuce doesn't sign anything that doesn't come with a very large bonus clause attached.

Kate Mooney said...

we have similar mottos...you're "we could be famous," while i'm "new orleans: where there are no celebrities, just your friends"

E said...


For the record, Jeffrey broke down and signed the petition. His weighty name may have ultimately tipped the scales of the OPSB in favor of extending the deadline.