What’s next for school reform in East Baton Rouge Parish? In the final weeks of the session, the Legislature shot down bills that would have decreased the size of the school board and increased the authority of school principals to make budgetary and hiring decisions.
Both measures were crafted with the support of business and civic leaders after months of meetings and planning, and both reforms were heavily promoted by BRAC.
“We’re going to have conversations over the next few weeks with the supporters of the legislation who we relied on during the planning and preparation before the session,” says BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp. “It will take a whole lot of others, too, coming to the table, but what is important to know is that this issue doesn’t go away. Our sense of urgency doesn’t go away.”
Knapp says since legislative reform didn’t work, the only remaining option is reform within the school system. EBR Superintendent Bernard Taylor has argued he is trying to make many of the changes that outside groups like BRAC and the Committee for Progress were pushing in the legislation.
Knapp says some of those reforms are a good start—for instance, the announcement Tuesday that the principal of top-rated Baton Rouge Magnet High School will also now lead Lee High School, which last year received approval from the school board to become a magnet program. But he says there is much more that needs to be done.
“The crisis facing our community is an education one … it is a core issue to the security, safety and discipline of our families and communities,” Knapp says. “So we will go back to whomever wants to engage. The status quo can’t be the answer and St. George can’t be the answer. We have to find another solution.”
On Monday, Committee for Progress President Richard Lipsey told Daily Report that the committee, a group of local business leaders, was “very disappointed” that after much lobbying the Legislature ultimately did not support a bill to reform the local school system. Going forward, Lipsey also suggests, trying to reform the system from within may be the best option for solving some problems in the near term.
“This is not defeat. We have other programs that we think are as good or better, and we are going to bring them to the school board and to Bernard Taylor,” he says.