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Baker city leaders upset over new charter school, considering lawsuit

Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 11:11 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - There’s a huge battle brewing in Baker over a new charter school that’s set to come next fall.

“We do not need any more charter schools in the city of Baker,” said Mayor Darnell Waites. “Here’s the deal, if you want to build a school, you can build it anywhere in East Baton Rouge Parish, but we do not need a charter school in the city of Baker.”

The BESE Board last month approved a new charter school that will open in 2023, but Mayor Waites said a new school is the last thing they need.

Waites fears a new charter school could further defund the city’s current public education system. He said nobody contacted city leadership about the new school either.

“I find it offensive. I think it’s disrespectful how they did it. Nobody reached out to us, and we’re going to speak up on it,” said Waites.

BESE Member Ronnie Morris explained the process to bring this new charter school was slightly different. He said a charter school applicant would normally go through the local school district, but there’s a law that allows applicants to bypass that point if the district has a failing grade.

Baker Public Schools latest letter grade was a D.

“In this particular case, you’re looking at a parent putting their child on a bus every day, and 50% of the students in the district are attending an F school,” said Morris.

Morris was one of the six members who approved the new school.

“We want to be able to provide parents with an option, right. If that’s the only option every day, we can do better than that,” said Morris.

However, that failing grade was back in 2019, which was before the pandemic.

Waites said the state allowed other failing schools and districts opportunities to improve without any consequences, but said Baker wasn’t afforded that same option.

He said school leaders are currently looking at filing a lawsuit to stop the charter school from coming.

“I don’t have a problem against charter schools. I don’t. That system has a purpose to me, but too much is too much, and that’s too much,” said Waites.

Morris said it’s all about giving parents options.

He said he visited one of the two current charter schools in Baker to get a sense of how they operate before making his vote.

”That was where my interest was, my focus, and I was comfortable that I did my due diligence, and I feel that it’s in the student’s best interest, and it’ll be up to the parents to make that decision,” said Morris.

”Give us an opportunity to fix our own stuff, to fix our own mess. Give us that opportunity the next two or three years, and if that doesn’t happen when you come back to the table in two years, then I may have a different view on it, but right now give me that opportunity,” said Waites.

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