In June, the School Board turned down an opportunity to offer 4,400 students access to new nationally competitive schools in Baton Rouge. We’ve seen other parish officials embrace the arrival of Amazon, but the board did not roll out a similar welcome mat for these schools. Rather than using its authorization power for students, the board chose to limit competition in favor of its own planning.
Rather than focusing on the great school options before them, the board alluded to plans for future district-run schools meant to fill existing quality gaps and bemoaned the financial impact of families choosing charter schools. Board members seemed to be saying, “Take your great schools elsewhere, we don’t need them.” This prioritization of systems over students is a slippery slope.
With 11,000 students in EBR’s D- and F-rated schools, Baton Rouge is not in a position to turn down successful schools. This is despite decades of district improvement plans. The choices many EBR parents make about education demonstrate their skepticism of the district’s ability to provide a pathway to their children’s successful futures.
The board narrowly approved one smaller-than-proposed school and nearly unanimously rejected another, denying Discovery Schools the opportunity to serve Baton Rouge. The school’s success addressing the needs of diverse learners, demonstrated by its overwhelming popularity with families in Jefferson Parish, makes it an excellent option for Baton Rouge.
The role of the system is to provide students with a high-quality education. East Baton Rouge schools cannot yet offer a high-quality school option to every student. We join the school board members in their hope that the district’s comprehensive plan will yield dramatically improved results for students. But we do not believe turning down high-quality options should be part of their strategy.
ADONICA PELICHET DUGGAN
Baton Rouge Alliance for Students