PBS 'Frontline' special on St. George disappoints supporters, opposition thinks it was on point

PBS program discusses city of St. George proposal

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The nation got a chance to drop in Tuesday night on the battle between the city of Baton Rouge and the proposed city of St. George, an issue largely unknown except in metro Baton Rouge.

The St. George plan is rooted in the desire for better public schools, but in a PBS "Frontline" report that aired nationally, racial overtones seemed to overshadow learning. The special was titled, "Separate and Unequal," and focused on the movement to incorporate St. George and the ramifications it would have on the city of Baton Rouge and more specifically, lower income and minority families.

Some of the supporters of incorporation have strong opinions on how their cause is being portrayed on the national stage.

"This is nothing more than a community of parents - black, white, rich, poor - that want to take control of their school system and bring quality education back to the school system," said Norman Browning, chairman of the St. George Incorporation Movement.

The documentary's stage was set with a family that, if not for the option to bus students to different schools, would be fored to attend poor quality schools.

Opposition to the St. George movement contends that if it becomes an independent school district, it will take with it the funds necessary to better the schools in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Supporters of St. George say they are tired of their tax dollars going to schools that do not give their children quality education. They say their goal is to create more community-focused schools.

However, the split would effectively segregate EBR parish, amounting to a St. George school district with 70 percent white students and mostly middle-class families.

Browning said he was disappointed with the special. He said it made the effort about race and class instead of quality education.

Baton Rouge Metro Councilman John Delgado has publicly opposed the city of St. George effort. He said the report was, by and large, on point.

"I thought it painted a sad, but accurate picture of the racial and economic impact that the incorporation would have on our community," Delgado said. "I would hope that the people who signed the petition watched this show and reconsider and hopefully ask to have their names removed from this effort."

The decision to incorporate St. George could be heading to a ballot in November. Organizers announced Monday that they have more than 17,000 of the 18,000 signatures needed to put it to a public vote.

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