Letter to the Editor
Was it just fantasy? Were they just blowing smoke? I am referring to the voter approval in 2001 to legalize gambling in order to give our teachers a raise and upgrade our school systems. A certain percent would be taken from the gambling revenue to upgrade our higher and lower school systems and give their teachers a pay raise. Nowhere did it say they were going to lower our teachers’ salaries and downgrade our school systems. At that time, Governor Mike Foster said he was “totally and personally embarrassed when [he] attended national and regional governors’ conferences because our low standard of teachers’ salaries and our school systems.” Four years later, higher education and lower education has not received any raises.
Where did the percent from the gambling revenue go? You don’t hear or see too many gambling places closing down. They must be doing well and must be making some pretty good money in order to stay open. In 2001, the legislators responded by endorsing Foster’s plan to increase the state tax on the state’s “14” riverboat casinos from 18.5 percent to 21.5 percent, or a 3 percent tax increase for teachers and schools. At that time there were only 14 boats. Today, 12 years later, I am sure there are quite a few more. Where did all the money go? Then we have video poker, lotto and Powerball tickets. Heck, with percent due in Louisiana school systems, we should be number one in the United States of America. Currently, we are close to the bottom and the laughing stock of the nation. Even if we receive lower percentage, we could still be in the top 10. Citizens of the great state of Louisiana, we are talking about mega bucks, beaucoup l’argent, mucho dinero, takusan okane, etc. Where is the money?
The average Louisiana teacher earns $32,510 a year, about $3,400 less than the Southern regional average. The average faculty salary at a four-year college is $46,874, or 15 percent lower than the southern average. Hell, some managers and assistant managers with high school diplomas make almost that much in the super markets. Do you wonder why our kids and grandkids leave the state and go elsewhere to find a job? Here is only part of the reason, and it could very well be a part of the solution. It is a crying shame that with all the money this state receives from gambling revenue that our school systems have to suffer so much. Where is the money? How much longer are we going to put up with this mess? We need some answers and we need them now. If the governor or the legislature has lowered the percentage or taken it away, then let us know now and why. We just want to know where the money went or where it was going. If they decided on their very own to use some of the education’s share to use elsewhere, then they should let us know why!
So listen up, all you young voters and all of those who have not registered to vote. The federal government put it to us without the Vaseline when they raised the drinking age to 21. We were supposed to get money to upgrade our highways, and now you have to go to our neighboring states to see better roads and highways. Don’t let the state of Louisiana do the same thing with the gambling revenue percent due our education systems. You deserve better, very much better. If you vote them in, you can vote them out!
Yours for “our pot of gold,”
LeRoy “Chune” Fremin