Letter: We can do better for children

By a 10-0 vote last Thursday, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board approved a plan to displace 100 gifted students from a C-rated school and “reassign” them to an F-rated one. Sadly, the publicly acknowledged intention of this decision is to inflate the failing school’s performance score to avoid state takeover. More troubling, this vote was made in the face of parents pleading for their children not to be condemned to one of Baton Rouge’s nearly three dozen failing schools. While the East Baton Rouge public school system will have to make difficult decisions amid many challenges, we can do better for children and families than shuffling students around.

The public school situation in north Baton Rouge is dire. Nearly nine in 10 children have access only to schools rated D or F by the state, and this includes schools run by both EBRPSS and the Recovery School District. Both have struggled to transform these schools, spending much of the year mired in disagreements over control of facilities and payments of financial liabilities.

Yet, there is great hope. Across town, at the same hour as the School Board vote, more than 100 parents and community members gathered in pews of a local church to talk about how to create excellent schools in north Baton Rouge.

New Schools for Baton Rouge shares the vision of an excellent school for every child in every neighborhood throughout our city. One year ago, with the support of courageous community leaders, we began visiting and recruiting some of the highest performing schools across the state and country, where every student is expected to graduate high school and attend a college of his or her choice.

What is remarkable about these schools is that they are public, open-enrollment schools just like ours, serving almost exclusively students from low-income and high-need backgrounds. One such school in Houston we visited, YES Prep, a sixth- through 12th-grade school, had nearly 100 percent of its incoming sixth-graders on free and reduced-price lunch. These students were also, on average, three years behind in reading and math. If this class is like any of the others YES has served over the last decade, nearly every student will graduate from high school and be accepted into multiple colleges and universities.

Students in Baton Rouge can have access to schools like YES, too, if we come together and demand excellence. New Schools for Baton Rouge is committed to partnering with parents, community and government to make this a reality. Instead of simply sending different students into the building, let’s bring real transformative change to schools for the benefit of all our children.

Chris Meyer, founder and CEO

New Schools for Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge