Baton Rouge is not in a position to be turning down successful schools

At their most recent meeting, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board had the opportunity to offer more than 6,000 students access to schools that are outperforming the state and even the nation on many education measures. Instead of rolling out the welcome mat for these schools, the way we see parish officials embracing the arrival of Amazon, the board’s conversation steered away from school quality to center instead on the district’s plans to meet the needs of families and the financial impact of charter schools on the system. Board members seemed to be saying “Take your great schools elsewhere, we don’t need them in Baton Rouge.” This predictable prioritization of systems over students is a dangerously slippery slope. Baton Rouge is not in a position to be turning down successful schools. At last count there were 11,000 students in EBR’s schools waiting for the district to implement plans for improvement.  Do parents across our community believe that this school system is already adequately providing a pathway to the future they want for their children?

The board ended up narrowly approving one great school and nearly unanimously rejecting another.  Denying Discovery Schools the opportunity to expand to Baton Rouge and serve the students and families of this community does not improve education in Baton Rouge. In Jefferson Parish, this school has more than 1,000 students on their waiting list. Itoutperforms 81 percent of Louisiana schools in serving students with special needs, 70 percent of Louisiana schools serving Black students and 60 percent of those serving English Language Learners. Its success addressing the needs of diverse learners would make them an excellent option forBaton Rouge students.

The role of the system is to serve students and families by providing a high quality education. Our school board and the district administration cannot yet offer the same level of quality as these exceptional schools to all the students that seek it. In this case, rather than using their power of authorization to expand access to great schools, the board sought to limit competition in favor of their own planning. 

The school board members who voted against these schools stated that they anticipated increases in student achievement driven by their coming strategic plan’s comprehensive strategy for school improvement. We, too, hope the district’s comprehensive plan will yield dramatically improved results for students. We also believe these schools should be one prong of such an improvement strategy. We look forward to the implementation of Superintendent Narcisse’s plan for improving the quality of education directly provided by the district, but standing in the way of opportunities for families should not be a part of the strategy.

Adonica Pelichet Duggan
CEO

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