For the last two years there has been an effort to paint Baton Rouge as a united city. In truth, we are as far from united as a community can be. We are the example of everything wrong with America in a city of less than a million people. There have been great tragedies in my beloved home town in the last few years. Incidents that made the country, even the world look in our back yard and ask us, what’s wrong. We are at a tipping point. We have a choice to make about who we will be as a city. Currently there is a fight for power that is being masked as a battle for good schools. When in reality, it is an idea formed by an elitist group of people who want to further divide an already fractured community.
The effort to incorporate the city of St. George came and failed two years ago. They are back, and they mean business. The organizers made their map smaller, and whiter, in order to help them ensure the success of creating a new city. A city that would be 70% white or greater. Currently the city of Baton Rouge is 54% black. Some sought to start a new school district, to create what they called neighborhood schools. Code word for segregated schools. Baton Rouge is one of the top 20 most segregated cities in America. So kids who live in the area of the proposed city are mostly white, and more affluent.
Let me be clear, the concerns of failing schools by parents in Baton Rouge, black or white are legitimate and should be addressed. However, breaking away and starting an entire new city and saying that it is for new schools is a lie. I’ve heard people like my friend Rolfe McCollister blame the failures of the school system on liberals. That the St. George folks wouldn’t be creating a city if certain people had not blocked their attempt at a new school district. What I think Rolfe and all the St. George folks fail to realize about the fight to keep a unified school district, is that it doesn’t serve this city to break up into the have’s and the have nots. St. George will end up being the have’s and Baton Rouge will be the have not’s.
If we sit back and hope that it doesn’t happen we allow the very people who created the mess of this school system and city, to avoid finical responsibility for the mess they made. The harsh truth is, the majority of the school board members are white conservative republicans. Pro charter folks. The problem with the pro charter white conservatives is, they don’t send their kids to the charter schools they think our black kids deserve. Don’t get me wrong, there are some charter schools in Baton Rouge doing some great things, but those that are doing the best such as Madison Prep High School and CSAL, are both home grown charters, ran by educators from this community. Not all these fly by night experts charter starters that Rolfe, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation support consistently. If the schools are so great, why aren’t white families pouring their kids into the charter schools in Baton Rouge? Because the truth is, most of those families don’t want their kids attending school with kids from the other side of town. It’s the same dog and pony show we saw back in the civil rights era. People just don’t want to admit that, and at some point we have to stand up and say, no. You don’t have all the answers, and the architects of the disaster we have as a school system, shouldn’t be the ones telling us how to fix our schools.
There are three things we need to do in our battle to defeat St. George.
- Tell the truth. This is not about better schools. It is not about safer communities. Baker is 77% black, and the safest city in the state of Louisiana. It’s not about Mayor Broome, she just got here. They wanted to break away under the last mayor. The TRUTH is what will set people free. Inform the voters who live in the proposed area that conservative leaders have the power on the school board and the metro council. They have full ability to do something about education and crime. They will use the excuse that we have a strong mayor form of government, but the mayor can’t spend any money over $17,500 without council approval. So republicans are just as much at fault as liberals if not more, because they have the ability to push this government in whichever direction they choose and they have. The results are failing schools, and the city we see. Which we all agree needs to stop being best at being the worst.
2. Vote down the East Baton Rouge Parish School System tax plan proposition 1. This tax plan proposes to build two new schools in south Baton Rouge. While I do not oppose new schools being built in south Baton Rouge, I believe we should not fund a plan for new schools in that area until we know that we have unified school district and city. We should not collectively fund schools for that area of town if they are breaking away to create their own city and school district. We shouldn’t reward selfish people who want to teach their kids to pick up their toys and leave if they can’t run the show. If they don’t want to be apart of this system, this system should NOT fund their schools. Also keep in mind, East Baton Rouge Parish School system has been inequitable in the amount of money they put into the high school building projects of Istrouma and Glen Oaks High Schools in comparison to Lee and Baton Rouge High Schools.
3. If you live in any where in Baton Rouge, get involved when the volunteer campaigns to stop the efforts for St. George begin. Knock on doors, make phone calls, mobilize to educate the citizens of Baton Rouge who live in this area that the new city will have to raise their taxes to fund their plans. They will tell voters they won’t but government cost, and this isn’t a small city being created. They desire to take away a large portion of the population of this community. They will have to create everything over, and nothing ever goes as projected. Don’t be bamboozled by people who only seek to divide.
If we sit back and let this happen, we may as well be allowing segregation to happen again. These people in my eyes are no different, than those who wanted to break away from the United States and create the confederate states of America. Break away cities sound just like states secession from the union. They believe they have all the answers. Even though their conservative republican elected leaders have the majority of power in this city, state, and country. So exactly how is the state of affairs in Baton Rouge the fault of anyone but those who have power? The real truth is, East Baton Rouge Parish is tipping over to be a majority black parish and there are some who seek to ensure they always keep the majority of power on elected bodies to ensure they control the dollars.
Every citizen of the proposed city of St. George isn’t supporting the effort in an attempt to segregate. There are some who honestly do just want better public schools for their kids. That can happen in this school system if we stop electing leaders who want to destroy public schools by making Baton Rouge a charter school city. Charters have their place, but they should not replace good quality public schools by the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. We are either going to figure out a way to thrive together or fail apart. We must defeat St. George to ensure we don’t become more divided and segregated than we already are.
I always find it funny that the people who are literally attempting to divide a city, think those of us who want Baton Rouge to progress from it’s backwards form of functioning are the ones who are divisive. Some of us just call it like we see it. Starting a new city is “Legal Segregation.” Legal segregation is still segregation and wrong.