More than 30 years ago, then state-Sen. Foster Campbell lobbied then-Gov. Edwin Edwards for a savings account that would enhance educational programs in Bossier Parish.
Campbell, a former teacher, said he didn’t think it made sense that other local governmental entities received some of the tax revenue from Louisiana Downs racetrack but that the school system did not.
“(Edwards) got to thinking about it, and you know, he’s quick witted,” recalled Campbell, now a Louisiana public service commissioner. “There was an ad at the time that Wendy’s had — ‘Where’s the beef?’ So Edwin Edwards said, ‘Let’s call it BEEF.’”
The Bossier Educational Excellence Fund (BEEF) was created in 1985. On Tuesday, Campbell, Edwards and area leaders celebrated BEEF as it marked a notable milestone.
“What started as $500,000 in tax revenue from Louisiana Downs has grown with the addition of casino revenues into a $50 million investment in the youth of Bossier Parish,” Campbell said.
When the fund was created, it was stipulated that interest from the fund could only be spent in classrooms — not for athletics, salaries or constructing buildings.
“They’ve bought over 1,500 computers, smart boards, they’ve had music labs, communication labs,” Campbell said. “That’s what I envisioned.”
Nichole Bourgeois, assistant superintendent of curriculum and academic affairs, said money from BEEF has been used to improve literacy, enhance the school system’s technology footprint in the district and fund many different programs.
One such program is a response-to-intervention program that BEEF has helped fund, she said.
“That’s been a big effort of the district to address the all-important question, ‘what do you do for students who don’t learn the material?’” she said. “You have to intervene in a very specific way.”
At the reception Tuesday, former Gov. Edwards said he had no idea when BEEF was founded that he would be in north Louisiana all these years later celebrating such a milestone.
“As a politician most of my adult life, I always felt that government should serve people,” Edwards said. “Taking care of the healthcare and education of children was a top priority for me all my life.”
In 1985, Campbell’s initiative faced some opposition. Looking back over the past three decades, Campbell, who served as state senator until 2002, said he often feared that BEEF would be “carved up and spent.”
“There were times I had to fight to prevent raids on the fund to balance the state budget,” he said. “Instead, school board members and superintendents through the years have helped me to protect BEEF and ensure that interest earnings only are spent, and only in the classroom.”