Baton Rouge students deserve better from all of us. The start of a new school year is traditionally filled with the promise of fresh pencils, binders full of loose leaf and new opportunity, but the first days of the 2023 school year have been filled with chaos for students, uncertainty for families and the loss of valuable instructional time. If current plans hold, EBR students will have at least 5 weeks of shortened and interrupted school days to kick off this year. The cost to them in lost instructional time is another example of this district failing to serve students well and put their needs first. The lack of attention on this issue throughout the transportation and personnel crisis faced by EBR Schools, demonstrates a disappointing lack of focus on the children in our community.
School is now unpredictable, a situation caused by years of school boards and superintendents failing to properly take care of the people who care for Baton Rouge’s children. Families are scrambling, children aren’t learning, and those facts have to be at the center of solutions now and accountability once this crisis is stabilized.
Leaders of this system have a history of taking things for granted. Such as that underpaid and under-respected people would keep showing up for work year-after-year. Or that a multi-million, 600-vehicle fleet was being properly managed and maintained. It’s clear today that those assumptions were foolish and must be addressed. But that doesn’t lower the urgent purpose of our schools: educating Baton Rouge’s children.
Sixty-five percent of Baton Rouge students are not reading on grade level. We cannot afford to lose any time in the classroom. Too few of us are focused on how this is impacting children, and our common vision for what we want for students in Baton Rouge. It is critical that the actions of our community, every member of it, reflect the knowledge that each day out of school is a day our children fall farther behind. As people who believe that an excellent education is every child’s birthright, we are heartbroken by the real effect of school closure on children’s futures and families in both the short and long term.
Our school board has a lot of work to do, on this issue and others. We believe they fully recognize the importance and scale of what lies ahead. They must be committed to caring for the people who care for Baton Rouge’s children. Our community is counting on them to responsibly and thoughtfully align system resources in a way that ensures children get the education they deserve.