Back in the day, Istrouma High School was an athletic powerhouse and a rival to Baton Rouge High. (Remember Billy Cannon?) It was a top competitor that exuded pride. Much has changed since then. Some protested when Istrouma was closed. But look at its results then and the futures it was providing to its students. It should have been closed because it was failing.
Hey, I even read where the iconic Sears is closing 78 stores to remain viable to compete. The marketplace and customers have the final decision—and with schools, that should be the parents and students, not the politicians or unions.
Now, new East Baton Rouge Schools Superintendent Warren Drake has begun the “Imagine Istrouma” initiative with a plan to bring the school back in 2017, including Istrouma Middle Magnet at the same site. He has a plan with a purpose—and is ready to attract students.
The middle and high schools will have to compete for students with other magnets and new charter schools. Parents also have the option of Opportunity Scholarships (vouchers) for private schools—if Gov. John Bel Edwards keeps his promise and doesn’t cut funding for the program. 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. The tax money is for giving students an education, not for providing adults jobs.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and it appears Istrouma is a good example of that adage. 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.
Istrouma could once again compete and be a point of pride in north Baton Rouge—that is my hope—but that will only happen if it delivers for students.
PROGRESS FOR STUDENTS
Louisiana’s four-year high school graduation rate for public school students continues its upward trend, reaching 77.5% in 2015, the state education department announced earlier this month. The Associated Press reports the rate marks an all-time high and the 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. 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?
The results also showed that while black students remain below the average, their improvement outpaced the state as a whole. The graduation rate for black students was 71.4% in 2015, up from 67.9% the year before and a growth of 12.5 percentage points since 2010. (I certainly don’t remember this kind of progress under four-term Gov. Edwin Edwards—the hero of minorities.)
Our state still has a long way to go, but with much effort by many to pass reforms, increase accountability and take on the status quo for the past eight years, our students, teachers and schools are making steady progress and have set a new mark for graduation. All are to be congratulated and thanked for their part in this success.
WHICH ‘FOLKS’ ARE YOU?
Gov. John Bel Edwards told the Rotary Club on May 4, “There are some folks who never want to raise revenue and they’re not happy, and there are some folks who never want to cut a program and they’re not happy, and I understand that.” Edwards wants to do both. What do you want?
While the state faces a projected $600 million shortfall for the next fiscal year (which recently dropped from $750 million and could possibly drop again on May 12 when the Revenue Estimating Conference meets), there are other options besides raising taxes—which was just done in the recent special session.
But many of those “options” would require tackling tough issues like pension reform or statutory dedications, or reducing the size and staff of some agencies or departments—and even deciding whether they are necessary at all for state government or instead should be a local function. (During severe weather you often here state and local government say “all non-essential employees are dismissed to go home.” We should start here.)
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). 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.
SMALL BIZ ROCKS
Our entrepreneurs and small businesses recently were honored with “Small Business Week.” The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that small businesses represent more than 97% of all Louisiana employers and employ more than 54% of the private-sector workforce. That is a major contribution that is essential to the growth and success of all communities, and quality of life for our families.
Entrepreneurs take great risks, and running a small business is very hard work. We applaud their efforts and accomplishments. We need our elected officials at the local, state and national level to realize their contribution and make it easier—not harder—to grow and succeed. More regulations and more taxes do not help add new jobs and build a strong economy.
GOD BLESS TEACHERS
Had to share this email I got from a friend.
“After being interviewed by the school administration, the prospective teacher said: ‘Let me see if I’ve got this right. You want me to go into that room with all those kids, correct their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits, censor their T-shirt messages, and instill in them a love for learning. You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, and raise their sense of self-esteem and personal pride.
‘You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, and how to register to vote, balance a checkbook, and apply for a job. You want me to check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behavior, and make sure that they all pass the final exams.
‘You also want me to provide them with an equal education regardless of their handicaps or race and communicate regularly with their parents in English or any other language, by letter, telephone, newsletter and report card. You want me to do all this with a piece of chalk, a blackboard, a bulletin board, a few books, a big smile, and a starting salary that qualifies me for food stamps. You want me to do all this, and then you tell me … I CAN’T PRAY?’”
BOEHNER IS POSTER BOY
Former House Speaker John Boehner is the poster boy for the failures of the Washington establishment, and he played a big role in the current revolt against
Republicans in D.C. This cry baby was the ultimate insider politician, and the country is fortunate he is out of power.
His recent tirade, in which he called Sen. Ted Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh,” demonstrated his cowardice and showed he’s a pathetic, washed-up politician looking to blame others for his failures as a leader and a Republican. He was bought and paid for by the special interests and has now been put out to pasture by those who had enough. Let others take note. Good riddance.