Schools want to beef up lobbying efforts
Dannie Garrett was contracted to provide lobbying for St. Charles Parish Public Schools for the past two years through New Orleans law firm Butler Snow, however, this year Garrett has established his own lobbying practice and is offering expanded services for a slightly increased price.
Garrett’s services have come at a time when there has been increasing movement to reshape public schools throughout the state. One of the major changes is the Louisiana Scholarship Program, which provides public funding for students to attend private school. The program was enacted last year and many School Board members expressed opposition to using public funds for that purpose.
Last year, Garrett’s services cost the School Board $32,000 in the five months before, during and after the Louisiana legislative session. Under the proposed contract, Garrett would lobby on behalf of St. Charles Parish Public Schools year round for only a slight increase up to $36,000.
Jim Melohn, chief financial and administrative officer for the district, said in addition to providing advocacy for the school district during the legislative session, the expanded contract would provide more strategic opportunities, such as allowing Garrett time to produce and advocate favorable legislation.
“What we are looking at, and presenting to you, is for a year-round service as opposed to just the five months of the session. The advantage to that is in working with our legislators early and also having him assist in writing legislation to work with us,” he said.
Garrett also provides lobbying services for the Louisiana School Board Association (LSBA) and some local officials expressed concerns that because of that his services in St. Charles Parish Public Schools may be duplicated.
Melohn said that in addition to working for other entities, Garrett does work solely on issues aimed at St. Charles Parish Public Schools.
“You’ve got a lot of things that are specifically unique to St. Charles Parish and maybe four or five parishes because of its items that only affect those areas,” he said.
School Board member John Smith, who is also president of the LSBA, said the decision to contract with Garrett was originally made when negative laws were beginning to impact public schools. Since that time, Smith says that the LSBA has taken a lead on lobbying.
“It was thought that to enter into an agreement with a professional lobbyist would put the district in better position to protect against some of those things that were coming down the pike. Since that time however, the LSBA has reinvented itself and is becoming a much more recognized entity in the legislature and among legislators,” he said.
Smith said he would like to look at alternatives, such as increasing the school district’s central staff’s role in lobbying efforts and perhaps working with Garrett on a case-by-case basis if needed.
“Whether we need a fulltime lobbyist at this point in time is something that I think we really need to have a lot more discussion on and whether there are other alternatives to doing that,” Smith said.
School Board member Ellis Alexander said he would like to find out more about Garrett’s advocacy on behalf of other school districts that may have competing views to those of St. Charles Parish Public Schools before making a decision on the proposed contract.
“Find out if he might be doing this for LSBA, he might be doing this for other parishes and there might come a time when he has a conflict representing two opposing parishes. That is something that I’d like to know,” he said.
Subscribe Today and Save!!!
St. Charles Herald-Guide is an award-winning newspaper that covers all aspects of St. Charles Parish - from schools and parish government news to social events, features on our local residents and sports.
Order your subscription today!
After undergoing a seven-hour surgery to correct a severe case of scoliosis,...
The Destrehan Wildcats played one of their most complete games of the season in a...
A man was found dead in the Bonnet Carré Spillway on Friday after a night of...
While heroin use appears to be on the rise across Louisiana, St. Charles Parish...
Entergy is seeking approval from St. Charles Parish leaders to build a generator...
The railroad crossing on Ormond Boulevard closest to River Road will be closed for...
St. Rose Travel Center features a convenience store, Palmettos Restaurant(open 11am-2pm Mon-Fri), Buster's Grill(open 6am-8pm Mon-Fri & 6am-6pm Sat-Sun) and The Rose Casino. Whether you need fuel, are hungry, or want to try your luck, we have you covered
Hahnville defense comes up big in defeat of East St. John - 617 views
Two of Hahnville’s six touchdowns came from the defense, leading the Tigers to a 42-26 win over the East St. John Wildcats Friday (Oct. 17) night.