Business Report

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber has released its annual education report card ahead of a House panel convening this morning to take up bills aimed at charter schools, superintendent contracts and teacher evaluations.

According to the report card, which is BRAC’s analysis of school districts in the Capital Area for the 2014-2015 academic year, nearly four in 10—or 16,000— East Baton Rouge public school students attended a “D” or “F” school.

All told, more than 26,000 students in the Capital Region attend low-performing schools even though five of the Capital Area’s school districts rank among the top 10 in the state, the chamber’s analysis found.

Five of the Capital Region’s 13 school districts improved last year, but the region’s school year average score declined by 4%. East Baton Rouge’s average score fell by 2%, the analysis found.

“Even with gradual improvements on a district level as we’ve seen in East Baton Rouge, the terrible truth is that too many students still attend underperforming schools or face barriers to attending better ones,” says Adam Knapp, BRAC president, in a statement.

BRAC analyzed K-12 education in the Capital Region for the 2014-2015 school year and examined the education outcomes of community, city and parish schools.

The chamber says it timed the report’s release based upon a number of bills currently moving through the Legislature aimed at reversing education reforms involving charter schools, teacher evaluations, vouchers, and superintendent performance contracts in mid- or low-performing school districts.

“Some have said that the aim of these bills is to increase local control, but the purpose instead appears to be to prohibit competition and weaken accountability,” Knapp says in a statement. “There is no control over a student’s education ‘more local’ than the choice of a parent.”

According to BRAC’s analysis, students receiving state vouchers to attend private schools experienced improved academic performance. “The achievement level of these students, since the inception of the voucher program, has been and continues to be lower than that of the statewide average,” the report reads. “However, scores have been improving, and the gap between the average statewide student achievement on the LEAP and voucher program student achievement on the LEAP has been cut nearly in half since the voucher program was created in 2010.”

The House Committee on Education met at 9 a.m. this morning to discuss the bills, many aimed at charter schools. HB 167 by Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith, D-Baton Rouge, prohibits the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education from authorizing certain types of charter schools during a fiscal year if the appropriation for the Minimum Foundation Program is reduced. Meanwhile, HB 879, by Rep. Joseph Bouie Jr. D-New Orleans, would prohibit for-profit operators of charter schools. In a statement, Christin White-Kaiser, Louisiana PublicSchoolOptions.org parent leader called Bouie’s bill “reckless.”

“HB 879 would force schools like Louisiana Virtual Academy and Louisiana Connections Academy to find a new curriculum provider—or be forced to close. It’s clear that these schools are being singled out by the Legislature, who would never force a traditional brick and mortar school to end their affiliation with a company like McGraw-Hill or Pearson,” White-Kaiser says.

Read BRAC’s full report.