Charter providers announced for EBR schools; majority out-of-state

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Several years have passed, since some failing schools in East Baton Rouge Parish were put under state takeover and given to charter schools.

Some of those groups have failed, so the schools were then placed in the Recovery School District. Some education advocates say there's a reason why some of the charter providers are not finding success.

At some schools in North Baton Rouge, there are banners hanging that read: "All of Us Will Learn." It's been the hope that these schools would improve, but under the alternative providers some are doing worse than when EBR was in charge.

"Most of the charter providers you're finding are from out-of-state," said Representative Pat Smith, a former school board member. Smith has always been vocal about education and charter providers.

Tuesday, the state announced plans to have three outside charters and one local group try to turn five of the EBR schools from failure to success.

Those groups:

Family Urban Schools of Excellence, in Connecticut will take over Dalton Elementary.

Celerity Education Group, in California, will operate Lanier Elementary and Crestworth Middle.

Friendship Public Charter Schools, in Washington D.C., will run Capitol High.

Baton Rouge University Prep, a start-up charter, will have Prescott Middle. The school will operate a K-5 program, adding a grade level each year. They will start with K.

These groups will have five years to make a difference. Smith says that five year plan is how the RSD is skirting the law, keeping these schools instead of giving them back to the school district. She says that's one reason they keep getting passed around to different providers. Providers, she says, that do not have track records.

Noel Hammatt, also a former school board member and education advocate agrees with Smith. He says he attended some of the recent Recovery School District meetings, but when these providers were asked for data to back up their claims - only the positive news was given.

Not getting the whole picture, Smith says, has led many parents to remove their children from schools that have been awarded to charter operators and instead enroll them back into the EBR school system. That has led to many schools with dwindling enrollment. The reason the RSD is now combining some of its schools.

Couple that with the high turnover among teachers at many of the charters and Smith says that does not equal success.

"You don't go into a culturally diverse community and expect they're going to get the best results they are looking for."

Smith says she did give a list of charter operators with proven records to the state superintendent of education, but nothing happened with that list.

One provider on her list: J. K. Haynes Charter. They have operated an elementary school in Baton Rouge for 16 years and had hopes to charter Crestworth Middle School. The local school district approved their request for a charter, but the state denied their application.

"This is about buildings. The state had already promised that (Crestworth Middle) to someone else."

Smith says the charter application process is problematic because only the state superintendent needs to have final approval.

"He makes the recommendation, BESE doesn't have to approve it," she said.

That process is something she is hoping to change in the next legislative session.

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