HECK: St. George Or No St. George, Fix Education In EBR

For far too long, the City / Parish of East Baton Rouge has ignored the one issue that now threatens to irrevocably divide us, and that is the failing public school system.

Let’s just stop, right now, pretending that it’s actually working. Nowhere in the country is there anything like the mess we’ve created here, with the overwhelming majority of children with means attending private schools and the poorer children being stuck in a cycle of poverty due in large part to poor performing public schools.

Yes, I know there are some folks who are extremely satisfied with the education system just the way it is. There are many parents who are fortunate enough to have their children in the Magnet or Gifted / Talented programs, which are in fact top notch. But that’s a small portion of the overall population of children in East Baton Rouge.

The system is failing the average child across the economic spectrum. Average middle class families are struggling to afford the rising costs of private education, while Ascension and Livingston Parish continue to swallow our tax base. The less unfortunate children of Baton Rouge are stuck in a cycle of deficiency with little to no options for bettering their future prospects, while the upper class continue to send their children to the best private schools and sit and wonder what everyone is so upset about.

This entire City of St George effort has manifested from the will of many parents in South and South East Baton Rouge’s desire to simply do better. Their efforts have been thwarted time and time again by the state legislature, and they now feel that forming their own city is their last best hope to provide a positive, well managed education system for their children. Their hopes are not unfounded; other municipalities in East Baton Rouge have broken away from the muck of the EBRPSS and are now flourishing.

Our public education problems are directly and indirectly linked to our crime, traffic, and infrastructure problems.

I hear often that we wish to be “America’s Next Great City” and “The Creative Capital of the South.” It’s high time we get serious about the public education problems we have in EBR in order to live up to our lofty goals. Let’s keep our heads up, though! Now is exactly the time we will fix this problem and move on together as a united community.

I’ve spoken to the organizers of the ISD / City of St George effort and they are willing to sit down and talk. Please join with me and demand that our school board, legislative delegation, and city / parish administration do so as well. All it takes is leadership on their part. We must demand solutions.

What puzzles me is the unwillingness, to date, of our state legislative delegation, school board, and city / parish administration to address these real concerns.

If these stakeholders are unwilling to sit down and finally offer real solutions to the largest problem we all face together as a parish, I, for one, do not blame the residents of St George one bit for taking matters into their own hands, and I support them 100% in their efforts to improve the lives of their children, up to and including the formation of the new City of St. George.

“I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

– Thomas Jefferson

Ryan E. Heck
Metro Councilman, District 11
City of Baton Rouge
East Baton Rouge Parish
[email protected]

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