I attended public schools from kindergarten all the way through university. All three of my children are current EBR public school students. I served four terms as a PTO President, lead numerous fundraising efforts for new school equipment, and continue to serve as an active volunteer. I have attended most EBR school board meetings over the last two years. At those meetings, I make my voice heard during the public comment period.
I want to bring a different perspective to the School Board. I am a frontline stakeholder. I would improve the board by holding my fellow board members and the Superintendent accountable for actions that prevent our schoolchildren from thriving.
Baton Rouge is super-saturated with charter schools that duplicate education environments already provided by traditional public schools. The growth of charters has undermined local public schools and communities without producing any overall increase in student learning and growth. Charter schools have opaque finances, making it hard to tell how our tax dollars are being spent. Most worryingly, charter schools are not accountable to the EBRPSS school board or Superintendent. If a parent or student has a serious problem with their charter school, they may not have a democratically elected official that they can call on for help.
I believe that any newly proposed charter school demonstrate two things: 1. that it is filling a unique educational niche that EBRPSS is ill-equipped to fill, and 2. that filling this niche will enhance educational outcomes for a group of currently underserved students.
The first thing we need to do is stop calling this crisis a “teacher shortage.” We do not have a “teacher shortage.” What we have is a shortage of respect, dignity, support, and pay for teachers. All the problems we have recruiting and retaining teachers flows from that. EBRPSS teacher pay has been appallingly low for decades. Even before the pandemic, they had a huge and stressful workload; then COVID forced them to re-make their entire profession over and over again and deal with a host of additional stressors. Teachers had to endure forced reassignment to different schools and divisive stipends that pitted teachers against support staff.
As a school board member I would advocate for reversing the Superintendent’s many mistakes that have led to an exodus of teachers. They need fair pay, support, resources and time for planning at a time of extraordinary educational needs in Baton Rouge.
The EBR School Board has been stuck on a ridiculous ITEP merry-go-round for many years. A big business hints that if it doesn’t receive an ITEP exemption, it won’t go through with its proposed job-creating business enhancement, thus putting pressure on school boards to approve every exemption for the sake of job creation. Every time an ITEP exemption is granted, public schools lose out on the tax revenue that they need to function. Enough is enough. ITEP exemptions should not be an everyday occurrence. They should be exceptional, and should only be granted when the project is truly transformational. We need to start thinking in this kind of long-term fashion and get out of our narrow-minded, “jobs vs. schools” mentality currently governing individual ITEP requests.