The current discussion in Baton Rouge is largely centered on the budget for the 2022 – 2023 school year, which will be adopted in the next few weeks. To get a better feeling for community desires for our education system, Stand conducted a poll of 1,823 likely general election voters in EBR. The poll was conducted in May of 2022 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.68%.

Respondents were asked about five specific priority areas from the district’s strategic plan and whether a candidate’s support of that priority area would make them more or less likely to vote for that candidate. While all five priorities had over 80% of people saying a candidate’s support would make them more likely to vote for that candidate, the single highest scoring priority was investing in effective teacher training and coaching on early literacy to help children read by third grade (89%).

The second most important priority was expanding access to quality preschool so more students start kindergarten ready to learn (82%). Less than half of EBR’s kindergarteners start school ready to learn, so Stand agrees that expanding access to quality early education programs is of the utmost importance.

Providing more career and technical education courses and ensuring mental health supports/counseling resources both came in at 81% support while expanding opportunities for high school students to take advantage of courses that enable them to earn college credit received 80% support.

The data above is district-wide and there were no significant differences in support between district, party, race, or gender.

This overview of community and likely voter perspectives provides a crystal-clear picture of the community’s priorities. When considering the budget and direction of our district, Stand calls on board members to both follow the evidence of effectiveness and overwhelming level of community support for these priorities and vote in favor of the student-centered initiatives listed above.

If you would like to email your school board member and ask them to support the proposed budget, which priorities these five priorities and more, please click here.

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.

Click here to sign this petition asking the EBR school board to bring early education, literacy funding, and other student & teacher supports back for another vote.

Last week, Stand for Children Louisiana partnered with Louisiana Policy Institute for Children to host a virtual Parent Advocacy Training as part of Louisiana’s Early Ed Month. The Training was a huge success and 2018 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year and the event’s facilitator Kimberly Eckert summed it up incredibly well:

So much fantastic content packed into just one hour. Families care about their children and want to be involved in their communities and education. Sometimes the “how” is withheld, though. THank you to organizations like Stand for Children Louisiana and Policy Institute for Children for enlightening, engaging, and equipping.

I learned so much during this training and hope you’ll take about an hour to watch the recording here ( Perhaps most importantly for me, a single thread wove through every discussion: when parents talk, elected officials listen.

This thread was shared by three of our esteemed guests including Louisiana State Senator Beth Mizell, City of Monroe Mayor Friday Ellis, and BESE Member Ashley Ellis, all of whom are elected officials. They confirmed that as our elected representatives, they want to hear from us. They want to address our priorities and pursue our interests. In order to do that, they need to hear from us.

During this event and all of #LAEarlyEdMonth, we’ve been talking about the state of early education in our state and the opportunities we have to invest in our children and improve our offerings. Right now in Louisiana, 114,000 in-need children ages birth to three years are without access to a high-quality early care or education program. This impacts our state’s education outcomes and our state’s current economy. Did you know Louisiana employers face annual losses of $760 million due to childcare-related employee absences and turnover?

As we reflect on the recently adjourned special legislative session and look forward to the regular legislative session (which starts March 14), I hope you’ll double check who your elected officials are and ask your legislators to support early education this year.

As a veteran teacher with more than twenty years classroom experience, I am often asked by parents and caregivers how they can assist in readying young children for kindergarten. I can’t overemphasize the importance of the kindergarten year and how vital it is for young learners. Research shows that brain development is faster in the first five years of life than at any other time. I hope the list below will assist in answering some questions and hopefully ease some anxiety.

It’s important to note that young children master skills at different points in their development. Don’t fret if your young child hasn’t mastered a skill yet.

The most important activity you can do to assist your young child in being kindergarten ready is reading aloud.

Children who are read one book a day will hear about 290,000 more words by age 5 than those who don’t regularly read books with a parent or caregiver. Positive early experiences with books provide opportunities for children to to develop critical emergent literacy skills. Students who are read to develop a more expansive vocabulary and begin school with greater background knowledge. In addition, students who hear more vocabulary words are better prepared to see those words in print when they enter school. Reading aloud and talking about what you read is a precursor to assisting children in picking up reading skills more quickly and easily.

Below are some additional skills that can assist young learners beginning kindergarten:

  • Recognize and name numbers 1-10 (out of order).
  • Count orally to 20.
  • Count up to 10 objects with one-to-one correspondence.
  • Recognize lower and uppercase letters of the alphabet (out of order).
  • Identify basic colors.

Correct grasp when holding a pencil and crayon – “tripod” grasp (thumb, middle, and pointer fingers pointing to the tip and resting the crayon on the side of the middle finger with the last two fingers curled into the hand).

  • Identify and write first name.
  • Properly holds a book and turns pages.
  • Correctly use safety scissors.
  • Tend to restroom needs.

In closing, I hope this summer you enjoy reading aloud with your child and find time for open-ended and active exploration, play, and investigation. It is wonderful to see the world through the eyes of a child.

Wishing you a safe and fun-filled summer.

Ms. Parrino is a kindergarten teacher at North Live Oak Elementary in Livingston Parish. She is a National Board- Certified educator in early childhood and holds a Master’s + 30 in curriculum and instruction, as well as her Reading Specialist and Teacher Leader Certifications. Ms. Parrino works as a mentor assisting new teacher candidates. Additionally, she is passionate about integrating science into her kindergarten curriculum. Mrs. Parrino is eager to begin her 25th year in kindergarten this August.