The history of education in the South is woven to the history of race. When whites saw public-school integration coming, many started private schools, sometimes called "segregation academies" – and they still play a role.
It’s been nearly 60 years since the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, and the subsequent flurry of lawsuits forcing the desegregation of schools. Two recent studies—one from Stanford University, the other from UCLA—say that schools, particularly in the South, are becoming re-segregated after the lawsuits are settled. Louisiana’s East Baton Rouge Parish appears to be part of that pattern.
For-profit public school management is on the decline across the country. In 2007 about half of charter schools that entered into management contracts did so with a for-profit company. Three years later, that number fell by 25 percent. In New Orleans, all of the for-profits that came in to manage charters after Hurricane Katrina are now gone. Opposition to for-profit public schools in Mississippi is growing fierce.
A constitutional amendment allowing for an independent school district in Southeast Baton Rouge fell fewer than 10 votes short of making it out of the legislature and onto the statewide ballot last year. The proponents, fed up with the shortcomings of the C-rated parish district, intend to try again. Opponents of the split are also readying for round two.
Compass -- the evaluation system being rolled out in public schools across the state -- has raised the stakes. Teachers who don’t score highly effective under the new measures face the loss of salary and tenure. Ineffective teachers could lose their jobs.
The state Department of Education says so far attrition has remained steady, but the East Baton Rouge Parish School District is still wary of turnover. Beanka Williams, the coordinator of support programs for EBR, says the district is having job fairs monthly to make sure schools are fully staffed.
Williams has also been fielding questions from anxious teachers since last summer when they were first asked to set goals for what their students would learn this year.
The rules of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the organization that issues LSU's accreditation, mandate that "the governing board is free from undue influence from political... bodies."
A report in the Chronicle of Higher Education detailed a letter received by LSU’s Board of Supervisors. A national organization that monitors academic freedom at colleges and universities shook their finger at what they called the mistreatment of faculty at LSU.
At the start of the Louisiana Smart Growth Summit in November, keynote speaker Mitchell J. Silver – who works for the Department of City Planning in Raleigh, North Carolina – gave his audience some constructive criticism:
“Baton Rouge, you’re not keeping your young people. They're leaving," said Silver.
The Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana reported earlier this month that the number of its members retiring from jobs in K-12 education jumped by more than 25 percent last year. The spike came after the legislature passed changes to the way teachers are evaluated, compensated and awarded tenure.
The retirement system’s figures include people retiring from food service, and other non-classroom jobs. And State Superintendent John White says the figures are misleading.
He says the number of teachers leaving the classroom for any reason – including promotion to administrative positions – has in fact remained steady at around 12 percent over the past three years.