Letter: Southeast Baton Rouge is not local

Once again, a group called Local Schools for Local Children is lobbying hard to break away from the East Baton Rouge Parish school district. Their aim is to improve local education. At least for those who live in that arbitrary triangle that starts from the Interstate 10/Interstate 12 split and works its way southeast.

The premise, as I understand it, is that the East Baton Rouge School District is broken and that educational outcomes will be improved for those students who can escape the district. But if public education in Baton Rouge is really broken, shouldn’t we work together to fix it rather than jump ship? Of course, the reality is East Baton Rouge student performance has actually improved over the last couple of years, so the premise that it is broken is wrong. But I strongly agree that we can and should do better.

But I still don’t understand a few things: 1) How does changing the district lines improve individual student performance? 2) If the Local Schools for Local Children group has a great model for change, why not implement that change within the existing system? 3) How can this proposal be revenue-neutral to the schools excluded from this new district when, even if you buy the dubious claims that all legacy costs will be accounted for, you still need to pay for a duplicated central office with associated staff and facilities? 4) If this is about choice, what about all of the great magnet choices that will be lost to the parents who live in this new district? 5) When did Southeast Baton Rouge become its own “local”? Is there a downtown southeast Baton Rouge, or a mayor or even a community center?

In my view, the answer to my last question is that southeast Baton Rouge is not local, or more correctly it is part of a larger “local.” We all work together, and ultimately our economic vitality depends on our ability to create opportunity and make all of our children successful. If the school system is really too big, we should come together and right-size our district in a thoughtful and equitable manner that will provide benefit to all of our students, not just the ones who live behind an arbitrary intersection of interstates.

We should all want to avoid the embarrassment of a renewed desegregation lawsuit. We are all local, and we should work together to improve education for all of Baton Rouge.

David Bowman

analyst

Baton Rouge