It seems like we’ve seen this movie before. Every four years, civic leaders in Baton Rouge make a fervent push (and raise a great deal of resources) to elect a reform school board for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. They seem to invest in the hope of a school board that will boldly lead with students’ interests and quality educational outcomes at the forefront.
This year’s film has an interesting trailer. The preview starts with a scene in the Capitol built by Huey Long, with a bill to restrict the power of the school board and transfer operational power of schools to the educators that lead them narrowly failing in the final hours of the legislative session (What is the plan?). It cuts quickly to scenes showing dysfunctional board meetings, parents in North and South Baton Rouge frustrated by the lack of quality options and dwindling facilities, while more than $120 million is poured into two schools. It ends with the clear and troubling message that despite more taxpayer funding than ever before, the system is failing to keep up with its peers in educational outcomes, more families are trying to leave the system, and, most alarmingly, the number of “F” schools has doubled. If there were ever an opportunity for a film to take this dismal script and turn it into a tale of inspiration and achievement, this is it.
Whatever your politics, I hope you’ll vote on December 6. This election has the chance to be different from the last five reform boards we’ve elected, and this date can be pivotal for the city’s education if a few plot twists transpire.
- December 6 will matter if the new board empowers educators to run schools instead of the central office making decisions from afar.
- December 6 will matter if the central office shifts its focus to being a performance regulator in exchange for greater school-based autonomy and raising expectations on the outcomes schools should achieve.
- December 6 will matter if poor performing schools are closed and those that are high achieving, regardless of whether a traditional, charter, or private school, are allowed the opportunity to expand and serve more kids.
- December 6 will matter if a transparent and fair system of school choice is instituted so families can attend high quality schools in their neighborhoods, but not be trapped when those neighborhood options are not high performing.
- December 6 will matter if ninety-eight cents on the dollar are allowed to follow students to the schools of their choice, ensuring student-specific needs and resources are provided to the educators and facilities closest to and most responsible for those students.
- December 6 will matter if the new school board hires a proven CEO who believes educators should run schools, regardless of type; that government should regulate, not operate those schools; that families should have choice of schools to attend; and resources should follow those choices.
If the next EBR school board follows this script, that would be downright Oscar worthy.