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Publisher: Istrouma coming back to compete

Now that East Baton Rouge Schools Superintendent Warren Drake is planning to bring back Istrouma High School and Istrouma Middle Magnet in 2017, the schools must be prepared to compete for the best and brightest in the system, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister Jr. writes in his latest column.

With the proliferation of new charter schools, other magnet school options and the state-run voucher program for private schools—assuming Gov. John Bel Edwards doesn’t ax funding for the program—parents have plenty of options for their children.

“Parents should have a choice—and traditional public (government-run) schools should have to compete based on what they offer, how they operate and how much they benefit students,” McCollister writes. “The tax money is for giving students an education, not for providing adults jobs.”

Istrouma could once again become a point of pride for north Baton Rouge, but only if the school delivers results in the classroom.

“Necessity is the mother of invention, and it appears Istrouma is a good example of that adage,” McCollister writes. “The necessity was created by competition and choice—and making all schools improve is a benefit of that reality for our students and community. It works in free enterprise and has given us the greatest economy on earth, and it can work for public education.”

McCollister also recognizes how the four-year high school graduation rate for public school students in 2015 reached 77.5%, marking an all-time high in the state and fifth straight year the rate has improved.

“Sadly, this news probably disappoints the teachers unions and the liberal Democrats (many in New Orleans and Baton Rouge) who represent the ‘adults’ in the system,” McCollister writes. “They want to take us all back to the ways of failure in the last century, during which students and parents had no school choice and government-run schools had no competition. Why would we do that to our children?”

Read the full column, in which McCollister also talks about how John Boehner is a poster boy for the failure of the Washington, D.C. establishment, praises small business owners, thanks teachers and wonders when the state Legislature will start making tough decisions on the budget instead of just raising more money.

“I am always surprised when lawmakers seem to ignore the reality of families who go through hard economic times and have to eliminate expenses and sacrifice to make ends meet, because they can’t just ‘raise their income’ (with a new tax),” McCollister writes. “You and your neighbors have to figure out what is ‘essential’ and a priority—and stop spending on the rest.”

“I would suggest Edwards and the Legislature consider the ‘family’ approach here even if it doesn’t make all the folks happy,” he adds.

Send comments to editors@businessreport.com.

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