HUDSON: “Build It (St. George), and They Will Come.” OR Maybe They Won’t Leave in The First Place!

Almost 30% of available students within the geographical boundaries of the East Baton Rouge Parish School system attend private school. This means that the parents of these children are paying twice for school. They pay their school taxes (which goes towards someone else’s child) as well as tuition for their child. This also means that money which could be used to stimulate the economy is going to pay for private schooling. At around $10,000 a year per student for 12 years of schooling… it adds up!

53 Mar. 24

In 2014, the student enrollment in 68 private school institutions operating in EBR Parish totaled 19,300 students:

1. Central & Zachary: ~ 7% of available students (~ 600)
2. EBRPSS: ~27% of available students (~18,700)

If EBR Parish was classified as a stand-alone Metropolitan Area, it would lead the nation in the percentage of students that attended private schools. The cumulative private schools costs to educate 19,300 students for 12 years exceeds $2.1 billion dollars of after-tax income.

EBRPSS has not built a single school (elementary, middle or high school) in the unincorporated St George area south of I-10. In my subdivision there is not a single family that I know that sends their children to EBRPSS. We pay 100% of our school taxes to a school system that is seldom used, and EBRPSS has experienced a decline in student enrollment every year for the last 10 years.

This is why existing families are leaving – and new families are choosing to live outside of the EBRPSS.  – Chris Rials

There are some who would rather see families move out of the parish than have them work towards St. George and remain in the parish! That is terrible logic when it comes to the economic impact on the parish. Chris Rials, a St. George supporter, explains it this way:

Think of a new family with 2 children relocating to Baton Rouge. They will gladly pay more for a house in Central or Zachary to avoid paying $20,000 per year of after tax money. Even if their taxes are a few hundred $’s per year, they have THOUSANDS of dollars that can be spent elsewhere.

A perfect example of this is:

st. george 1

55 Mar. 24

Chris Rials elaborates on his research by explaining it in simpler terms:

You remember the famous line in the movie Field of Dreams: “build it, and they will come.” The same is true of public education — just look at the population growth (or decline) of surrounding areas — all a result of the quality of their public education system. After we “build it”, the City of St George, “they will come” to be a part of a thriving community.

There are members of the EBR Metro Council that say they support the peoples right to vote but based on the fact that they represent areas outside of EBR Parish and are focused on the money and the growth of the area they represent they voted in favor of extending Mary Olive Piersons contract to sue “St. George”. This does not sit well with some St. George supporters who think the council members priorities are skewed. Chris Rials shared his view on this with me saying:

I never thought I would see a politician vote their economic interests over the education of a child. That is my honest assessment.

The Capital City News reports that:

Councilman Trae Welch said he was against St. George because it would hurt the other unincorporated areas of the parish.  We don’t understand that reasoning at all.  At present, tax revenues from the unincorporated go to benefit the City of Baton Rouge, and very little is spent on the unincorporated area.  We need to change the current budgeting system and distribute funds from the unincorporated areas fairly.  But the creation of St. George has nothing to do with that one way or the other.

In an interview this week, Councilman Scott Wilson said the creation of St. George would create too much competition and be bad for Central.  He also said he strongly supports the right of citizens to vote, and “I hope they do get to vote!”




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