The Southern Poverty Law Center Tried To Keep Black Kids In Jefferson Parish Trapped In Bad Schools

It’s a horrible organization led by a sex pest and accused pedophile, and most of the time when you see the Southern Poverty Law Center poking its head into the news cycle it’s going to be to accuse those with whom it disagrees politically of being racists and domestic terrorists.

But sometimes, the SPLC will show up and attempt to keep black kids locked in, well, southern poverty.

Such was the case this week when the Southern Poverty Law Center joined with some neighborhood groups in predominantly black areas of Jefferson Parish to fight the closure of several underperforming disasters within that parish’s school district. They weren’t successful; the Jefferson school board went ahead with its plan to close and/or consolidate seven schools in the system which weren’t pulling their weight.

Parents, students, community activists and others who opposed the proposed closure of some Jefferson Parish schools have a prominent new supporter. The Southern Poverty Law Center sent a letter to the school board urging it to postpone a vote on the school closure-consolidation plan.

Washington Elementary is one of the schools that would be shuttered if the school board endorsed a plan its consultant offered last week.

Pastor Kaseem Short leads Thomas United Methodist Church near the school.

“Thomas United Methodist Church is one block from Washington Elementary and we are very concerned about the closure of Washington Elementary,” said Short.

He says the school has a proven track record.

“They have produced from judges to lawyers, to singers, musicians, doctors,” said Short. “This is a school that has produced giants in our community and has continued to produce giants. Their test scores are up, their enrollment is actually up and we’re so excited about the future of Washington and now we’re at this place where they’re trying to place our school.”

A school board consultant recommends closing eight schools, five on the west bank of Jefferson Parish and three on the east bank.

Lauren Winkler is an attorney with the SPLC.

“Black students are attending at a much higher rate than white students, in most cases, there’s almost like seven to one, so closing those schools has a disproportionate impact on black students in Jefferson Parish,” said Winkler.

Washington Elementary is listed as Washington Montessori at the Louisiana Department of Education website. Its enrollment is 57 percent black and 36 percent Hispanic. And the numbers on the LDOE scorecard for that school indicate it ought to have been shut down years ago.

The most recent scorecard results give the school an Assessment Index score of 56.7, which would be a “D” grade. Further, from grades 3-8 in all subjects, 80 percent scored at “basic” or below; only one percent rated as “advanced,” the highest category.

Some 82 percent were “basic” or below in math. In science, 78 percent were “basic” or below. In social studies, that number was 87 percent, including 39 percent scoring “unsatisfactory,” the lowest category.

And what are Jefferson’s taxpayers forking over to get such sparkling results?

Well, the state average per-student spending sits at $12,360. The Jefferson school system average is $11,960.

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And Washington Elementary checks in at $15,022.

So of course the Southern Poverty Law Center has to ride to the rescue of a failing school producing kids likely incapable of social mobility which hemorrhages cash out of that school system that would assuredly be better spent somewhere else.

Another way to put this is that the SPLC is doing to the minority community, and particularly the black community, in Jefferson Parish what its founder Morris Dees allegedly did to his stepdaughter.

The real question is why anybody would care what these people have to say at all.

It looks like the members of the Jefferson Parish School Board have come to a similar conclusion. They deserve gratitude for that. Hopefully their school reorganization plan will result in a better educational product delivered at a lower cost.

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