Failing schools call for action

[BATON ROUGE] – Residents in East Baton Rouge Parish are coming together in hopes of forming a new school district.

Norman Browning and a group of concerned residents formed an organization, Local Schools for Local Children, are taking action. Board members met with the community on Feb. 21 at Woodlawn Baptist Church to inform the residents of what is going to happen. Sen. Mack “Bodi” White will represent the redistricting bill at the State Capitol in March.

The members have proposed a new school district. The boundaries are set where Interstate 10 and Interstate 12 merge and form a box to the Livingston and Ascension Parish lines. The Southeast Baton Rouge Community School System will consist of 10 schools: seven elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. Browning, president of Local Schools for Local Children, said smaller is better, and will provide a better structure for the new and existing school district.

The proposed school district will be funded by existing tax dollars, and it will not affect the East Baton Rouge Parish School System financially. “We have the money to fund these schools because we are one of the wealthiest school systems in the state,” said Browning.

The precedent for the new district is based off of other independent community school districts like Zachary, Central and some Texas schools. Zachary broke away from the EBR Parish School System in 2003, and in the last seven years, has ranked in the top five in the state.  In 2007, Central broke away, and in the last three years, Central has ranked in the top five in the state and also had the highest ACT scores in the state.

The community will also benefit from the growth and commerce to the area. “Zachary and Central have had good growth taken place since they started because people want to be there for the schools,” said White. “I’ve only been representing this area for a few months, but in the last eight years, I represented Zachary, Central and Livingston. I represented three of the top five school districts in the state of Louisiana. This community is no different than the three I represented, and surely they can be in the top five unless they find a way to screw it up.”

Browning explained that the members of the organization strive to build relationships through the community, and suggest that community is what the current schools are lacking. “It is amazing the relationships that are built and made through the community,” said Browning. “It forms a partnership between the school and other community resources that get involved and care.”

Local Schools for Local Children members have been researching the outcomes of the proposed district for a year, and weighing the pros and cons. According to their research, Browning said the state ranks 49th in the nation. In East Baton Rouge Parish, schools are ranked 54th out of 70 in the state system, and 69 percent of students attend a “D” or “F” failing school. More than half of the schools in Baton Rouge are at risk of a state takeover in four to six years.

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