• Swamp Watch

Is Baton Rouge School Board Broken?

Extra meetings. Meetings running until 11:00PM with no votes. Big Votes Delayed. Is current EBR Parish School Board Broken?

The last several weeks have been filled with chaos for the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board. The Board holds its regular monthly meetings on the third Thursday of each month- but its regular meeting this month was the third meeting in as many weeks, as long, disorganized meetings have led the Board to repeatedly push off debate and votes on big matters. As if that wasn't enough, the Board's redistricting plan was thrown out by a Judge Friday evening- a decision the Board is appealing but injects yet another contentious issue back to a School Board that has been largely incapable of finding agreement- as evidenced by the repeated, long meetings with no action taken.

While the Board has been no stranger to chaos, the last few weeks have displayed a greater look if incompetence and inaction from the Board. It began with board workshops and a Committee of the Whole meeting on June 2nd, a meeting where the Board was scheduled to vote on 22 agenda items. After nearly 6 hours, the Board managed to only get through its budget hearing and 5 presentations- not taking a vote on a single agenda item. Parents and members of the public waited until nearly 11:00PM to offer input on issues ranging from a $2.5 million budget to expand a dual enrollment program, Pathways to a Brighter Future, one time stipends for school support staff, controversial changes to job descriptions, and various other items.

After being incapable of getting through its agenda at the June 2nd meeting, the Board scheduled a special meeting for June 9th, to discuss and get input on those agenda items. That meeting also last nearly 5 hours- despite the Board again delaying votes on big-ticket items until the next week's meeting, on June 16th.

Then came the June 16th Regular Meeting. Despite being the Board's 3rd meeting in 3 weeks, The Advocate described the meeting as "collapsed into dysfunction" after votes on several proposals failed, and many of the items that were first to be considered on June 2nd were again delayed for the 3rd time- to the Board's next regular meeting on July 14th. Despite being the regularly scheduled Board meeting, it began with several members absent. As the meeting wore on, and votes failed, another member left the room- leaving the Board with only 5 of its 9 members to conduct business. That meeting also stretched on for nearly 5.5 hours.

After 3 weeks and nearly 20 hours of meetings, the School Board was incapable of getting through a single meeting's agenda, including its most basic responsibility: Passing a budget.

The Board's seeming inability to operate efficiently and work together has a negative consequence for parents, students, and all East Baton Rouge Parish citizens. It makes it harder for those wishing to give input on important matters- as they have to show up to meeting, after meeting- never sure if they will even get a chance to speak. They have to spend late nights waiting for an opportunity that may never come. Eventually, many may decide not to even bother. As we saw June 16th, it even discourages Board members from being a part of the process to the point where they don't even show, or leave.

And yet, there are still efforts by some to expand the Board- something that may happen depending on the outcome of the Appeals process on the redistricting lawsuit. All of this is bad news for Baton Rouge taxpayers, parents, and students expecting a functional, effective school board.

Read more about the broken East Baton Rouge Parish School Board here.

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