Letter: Lafayette schools’ legal issues oversimplified

School district affairs in Lafayette Parish have no doubt been contentious. The source of much of that contention is a state education bureaucracy that appears set on pitting elected local boards against a more powerful central office at both local and state levels.

A state takeover of local tax dollars for for-profit education management companies to run five schools in Lafayette, despite a significant majority vote to deny the applications by our local School Board, is the latest example of this.

Unfortunately, for your Acadiana readers, The Advocate editorial board has presented an opinion that reads under-informed and superficial — “Lawyer fracas bad for schools.” Regardless of any tender feelings between the Lafayette Parish School Board and its superintendent, the public is best served by expert, experienced advice regarding education policy, particularly when education law regarding the roles of administrators and elected school boards has changed significantly during the term of an existing school board. The characterization of an “old guard” preventing progress is convenient for some, but it is an oversimplification of what are valid issues worthy of debate.

For more than a decade now, the Lafayette Parish school system has used a combination of services from both the District Attorney’s Office and outside legal counsel. This is common for many districts across the state. Central office staff, not our School Board, spent the vast majority of money this year on outside legal counsel.

In addition, there are many districts across the state that, as a matter of course, employ outside counsel rather than their own district attorneys to handle all legal issues.

The editorial board underserves its readership when it takes the approach of a Lafayette Parish School Board run amok. We have complicated problems and we need newspapers that inform us and editorial boards that present opinions rooted in fact and issues not personalities and reputations.

Kathleen Schott Espinoza