Officials: Unfair playing ground for public and charter schools

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Local and state leaders say they are tired of asking and not getting information about what's happening with the local school system. A group of legislators, parents, East Baton Rouge council members and EBR school board members made their feelings known Thursday, at a press conference, at Capital High School.

Some of the groups remarks were directed at state education leaders in favor of charter schools.

"You say our traditional public schools are failing, but in the same token, you're giving all your resources and funding to charter groups," said Carolyn Hill, a member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Hill said after looking at how schools are funded, she discovered most of the federal dollars that Louisiana receives goes to the Recovery School District and charter school, not traditional public schools.

"$38,000,000 came in for turnaround schools. Yet no local school districts that have followed the rules of turnaround got any portion of those dollars," said Representative Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge. Smith is also a former school board member in EBR.

Despite not getting any of that money, local school members say the district is fairing better.

Tarvald Smith, vice-president of the school board, says the district now ranks 42 out of the 76 districts in the state. He added they've also had 12 schools move from being labeled as academically unacceptable to now being acceptable.

Part of that success they believe comes from public schools being held to tougher standards than charter schools. Public school teachers must be highly qualified and certified.

"Come into our communities, not have to hire certified teachers and leave when they're unsuccessful," Smith said, pointing to how many charters have come and gone, leading to some of the same schools being chartered again by more groups.

Hill pointed out that the group that will operate the combined Capitol/Istrouma High next year, Friendship Public Charter, was turned down last year as a charter provider.

"RSD promised each of these charter providers that they would be able to open in buildings. That did not materialize because they no longer had schools to take over in EBR," Smith said.

This year, only two BESE members including Hill voted against Friendship becoming a charter.

"These are charters that aren't producing academically in other states, but we're going to bring them here to Louisiana to educate our children," Hill said.

The group believes there is a lack of information being given to people, both parents and those who represent the area.

They intend to change that and the funding issues, through legislation in the next session.