At issue is an April 30 election seeking approval of a $187 million plan to desegregate the parish’s schools - 57 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is required.
The federal judge overseeing the district’s 45-year-old desegregation litigation — Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle — could order the School Board to impose the tax increases over voters’ objections.
During a November hearing, Lemelle cited a Supreme Court case known as Jenkins v. Missouri.
In that case, a federal judge ordered tax increases to fund desegregation efforts in the Kansas City school system.
Lemelle said he was reluctant but not unwilling to order the board to impose taxes, starting what could be a years’ long legal skirmish.
The judge could also institute busing to implement the school mix plan, and he could appoint his own administrator to oversee the matter.
Lemelle minced no words during the fall hearing about his intentions.
“I have resisted attempts to draw me into micromanagement of your system,” Lemelle told the parties to the suit in November. “But if my orders are not followed, I will do it.
“If you had taken care of this 20 years ago, we wouldn’t be worrying about it now,” Lemelle told the board.
Tangipahoa’s desegregation case, known as Joyce Marie Moore et al. v. Tangipahoa Parish School Board, was filed in 1965, but was dormant for decades before being revived in 2007 by the parish’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The plan proposed in response involves building five new schools and creating nine magnet programs and a career education center.
The board is proposing to increase property taxes by at least 29.5 mills and to levy a new 1-cent sales tax. The taxes will fund new school construction and operations.
Lemelle approved the plan in March 2010, 2010, ordering the School Board to put the four tax proposals on the ballot.