By Edwin Crayton
I went to my mailbox and there it was: a letter from the Voters and Civic League telling me that they would oppose the school tax basically and mostly due to their opposition to the way Natchitoches Parish Schools Superintendent Dale Skinner is running things. The tax is supposed to support schools. But the League maintains that although it realizes more money is needed, it believes that the superintendent needs to make changes in how he “treats the school personnel and other adults”. The letter criticized the board for not reprimanding Skinner and even extending his contract, when “many in the community felt this was a bad idea” and then also giving him $18,000 in travel expenses “when the schools are running a deficit.” The letter concludes, “Please join us by voting no to this and other tax increases until the School Board hires a new superintendent and shows the public that it is serious about getting rid of these “D” and “F” schools.
Not long after getting that letter, I was invited to a Thursday evening meeting of another voter registration group called the Citizens for Democratic Action (CDA). As an item on their agenda, they made the point that they would publically come out in support of the school tax. Their chairman Harold Bayonne and other members pointed out their position was not in response to what the Voters League was doing at all. In fact, they said they would vote for the tax regardless of any other group’s position. They maintain that their reason is simple: they are “doing it for the children” and believe the tax will improve the schools.
Both groups are similar in many exterior ways. They both are primarily voter registration organizations, dedicated to improving voter turnout. Both are also predominately African American– but not exclusively so. And that is where the similarities end at least on this school tax issue as you can see. The Voter’s League is focused on getting more respect for parents and making sure the superintendent hears the voice of the black community in particular. They see their action as a kind of protest, about like a boycott. This strategy although controversial, has worked for civil rights focused groups historically. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a boycott/protest that worked and indeed, the Voters League took this stance in the last school tax vote and was crucial in helping defeat it. They are trying to teach people in the community how to use their political vote to create changes. On the other hand, many in town of all races also sympathize with the totally opposite approach or concept of putting kids first and keeping politics separate, as CDA is doing. It would only be fair to say, that both groups maintain their actions will benefit children. Which way is right? Who is to say? One thing is certain, the attention both groups have drawn to this issue is drawing more community attention than usual. So it’s looking like that will ultimately improve voter turnout. And that’s something that should make both voter registration groups smile a little.
Regular voting is April 28, 2018.