SHREVEPORT, La (KTAL/KMSS) – Caddo Schools Superintendent Lamar Goree says the school district was not given a voice in the Shreveport City Council’s discussion regarding funding for school crossing guards before Tuesday’s vote to cut the budget.
The city council approved the cuts in a 6-1 vote during Tuesday’s meeting.
At a news conference Wednesday morning, Dr. Goree said public safety is not the jurisdiction of the school district.
“We certainly take responsibility for safety when it comes to what’s happening on our property, and that being extended to our bus stops in the city. Our concern, though, is that when we look at what our crossing guards do, that’s not a function of public education. We see that as a public safety issue.”
“If you look at the lines that have been drawn in the streets, that was not something that Caddo Parish schools did, but that’s a function of the city. When you think about who those crossing guards are employed by, those are not employees of the school system, but they are employees of the city. And we see that that responsibility being that of the city, and we see that as being a service that’s provided to the citizens of our parish.”
Goree went on to point out that the school district has no jurisdiction to control streets or the location of crossing sites. He also pointed out that there are also private and charter schools who benefit from the services of crossing guards.
“Generally speaking, these are not our students that take advantage of our buses. These are not our students whose parents are bringing them to school in SUVs. These are our students who are doing the very best job they can to get to school. They’re walking there. And we certainly will do anything we can to support them getting to school safely and to support them when they’re on the campus. But we do not see it as our responsibility to provide for coverage and safety when we’re dealing with the public streets.”
Goree’s comments Wednesday echo the statement released by the school district shortly after Tuesday’s vote, which says the action was taken “without involving any member of Caddo Schools or the Caddo Parish School Board in conversations before presuming the district would absorb the increased costs.”
Public safety on city streets is not the jurisdiction of a school district. This is the function of a City and its police department. Our district does not have the authority to police neighborhoods nor the funds to incur this additional cost.
As the City Council’s vote was taking place, our own Board was meeting to discuss how to address budget concerns which have plagued districts across Louisiana. Our Board and leadership team is committed to maintaining resources in our classrooms and providing opportunities for our students even amid a shortfall in revenue. In difficult budget times, we have been forced to make hard decisions. We cannot in good faith incur a cost which does not belong to the district and cannot be maintained within our operations.
We believe much of this conversation could have taken place prior to today’s decision. The City Council throughout this discussion has chosen to exclude the district from conversations and has stated that district staff and school board leadership were invited to meetings in which they were not. As governmental bodies, we believe there is great work to be done when we work together and look forward to opportunities to collaboratively move forward to enhance our community.
There are on average 92 part-time school crossing guards in Shreveport. The crossing guards work near public and private schools. The city provides $260,800 for funding. Caddo Parish Public Schools pays $11,096.
Earlier this month, Councilman Jerry Bowman explained that the City of Shreveport wanted help with the funding and should conduct a study to see how many crossing guards are actually needed to align with the city’s shifting and changing population.
After the May public safety committee meeting, Bowman told KTAL/KMSS school district officials were invited to discuss the matter.
“It seems as if they don’t want to come to the table. They’ve been invited. This isn’t the first time. This is the second time they’ve been invited. They said they wanted to have a meeting. They wanted to talk about it, but we haven’t seen anyone step up.”
When Goree was asked at the press conference if they were invited to meetings, he replied, “Anyone that told you they invited us to a meeting, ask them to show you a copy of the invitation, the email, the text message. We were not invited to any meeting.”