Stand for Children Louisiana’s Statement in Response to East Baton Rouge Parish June School Board Meeting
For more than a decade, Stand Louisiana has advocated for improving our state’s literacy rates because we know kids who are reading on grade level by third grade are more likely to graduate high school on time and succeed in the college or the career of their choice. We are made up of more than 300 parent, teacher, and student members in EBR and more than 200 local business and faith leaders representing more than 90,000 constituents as part of our United Faith Leaders.
From installing “Little Free Libraries” across EBR and the state to increase community access to books, supporting successful legislation that expands the number of literacy coaches in our schools, successfully advocating for funding to expand local quality early education seats, supporting the expansion of the Science of Reading professional development for teachers and support staff, and successfully lobbying for more state and local funding for quality early education and reading interventions – our commitment to improving literacy rates to improve lives and pathways to prosperity for families couldn’t be more clear.
Stand Louisiana has been pleased to see EBR Superintendent Dr. Sito Narcisse’s deep commitment to improving third grade literacy rates for students across the district by expanding access to quality early education programs and making historic, evidence-based investments in literacy education. In his first year in EBR, Dr. Narcisse – with support from most board members and as outlined by the board-approved Strategic Plan – ensured that literacy coaches were placed in schools to support students and teachers, provided training and ongoing support to educators and support staff in the Science of Reading, created more than 1,000 new early education seats for families, and made critical investments to drastically expand summer programming to address learning loss due to Covid. On June 21, the district released its Literacy Blueprint for EBR that was developed by the Mayor’s Joint Task Force on Literacy – on which we are proud to serve – doubling-down on literacy as a priority not only for the district but for our city as a whole.
But – as is all too often the case in EBR – election year political posturing by some members of the board threatens to derail more than a year’s worth of progress and halt kindergarten readiness and rising literacy rates for years to come. While the tone of board meetings has been slowly devolving, June’s meeting hit an all-time low. With a few absent board members, one politician took full advantage and, in some cases, was joined by others to ultimately kill over $12 million in funding for early care and education seats and literacy supports for students and teachers.
Board Member Collins’ election year politics could stop 1,200 families from having access to quality early care seats for their three- and four-year olds. Not only will these young learners be kept from early education seats that will help them start school ready to learn, but their parents will be denied opportunities to advance their education and careers due to lack of safe, affordable childcare for their children.
In a May 2022 poll of 1,823 likely general election registered voters in EBR, 82% reported they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who prioritizes expanding access to quality preschool so more students start kindergarten ready to learn.
There is no excuse for this blatant action by Ms. Collins that will hurt the families who elected her to do right by our kids.
Stand Louisiana calls on the board to bring back the items voted down at the June board meeting and vote in favor of expanding Pre-K education, continuing critical investments in literacy and mental health supports for students, and investing in teacher professional development. We urge the board to pass these items unanimously to demonstrate board unity for students and progress. The community is watching and it is time to put students first.