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Greed drives putting wants over children's needs

And this explains why the East Baton Rouge Parish School System wallows in mediocrity while other Louisiana school districts pass it by.

Yesterday, a few hundred system employees vowed to walk out of classrooms on, fittingly, Oct. 31. These people, marshalled by organized labor, said they would do so in protest of Industrial Tax Exemption Program awards to ExxonMobil, if made at an Oct. 30 meeting of the state’s Board of Commerce and Industry. However, the BCI doesn’t have those requests on its agenda for that meeting, meaning a walkout might occur at a later date after it finally does take up the matter.

Leftist groups blame these exemptions, which could run into the millions of dollars annually of foregone revenue for the system, for preventing salary increases. The latest (2015) data of classroom teacher salaries in the system for nine months was $51,754 (excluding benefits except for professional development funds), or almost $6,000 higher than the state’s median household income for that year.

Then, the system had just under a full-time equivalent of 3,000 teachers, although today it employs around 3,200 total. It’s unsure how many of the 445 who pledged to abandon their duties for a day were teachers.

Other issues, such as smaller class sizes, better technology, new school buses, updated school buildings, and early childhood education the congregants also brought up. But it appeared compensation seemed the main motive for the threatened strike. As one participant put it, “Teachers would like to be compensated for what we do. We put a lot of love and craft into what we do.”

Perhaps, but whatever they do overall in the aggregate doesn’t produce very notable outcomes. As it has for many years, the system has drawn a ‘C’ performance score, but has seen the overall score deteriorate since the last time the scoring metric was re-centered. Meanwhile, it has slipped in overall state rankings compared to other districts. Worse, EBRPSS American College Test scores have fallen over the past five years, last year declining to 18.5 (about the 40th percentile) for an all-time low with all students taking the exam.

The desire to threaten a walkout indicates why, which only hampers children’s education by depriving them of an extra day of instruction from their assigned teachers. Instead of harming children’s life prospects, disaffected employees could work elsewhere, with some school districts just miles away, or at charter schools potentially literally down the street. Consider as well in the case of teachers that, on a monthly basis, their income exceeds the state’s median household income by over $14,000 a year with much more vacation time than practically any full-time employee in any other industry.

Yet it seems this isn’t enough, and so they selfishly wish to put their own wants ahead of the needs of children. And to continue producing a mediocre education of relatively declining value, while getting paid more for this, despite the fact that the district spent in 2015 over $12,000 per student – an amount higher than the averages of 33 states in 2016 and over $1,000 more than Louisiana as a whole.
This lackadaisical attitude towards public service finds validation from the top. When asked about the possibility of roughly 10 percent of his classroom staff plus others abandoning their posts in a harmful display of self-interest, Superintendent Warren Drake shrugged it off with a bizarre statement so contrary to the actual facts and motives involved: “We are so blessed to have some of the most passionate and hard working teachers and staff in the country. Our teachers are committed to their students and understand the pivotal role they play each and every day. We work and live by our motto: One Team, One Mission.”

Such obtuseness doesn’t bode well for district leadership to halt the slipping academic performance of the system. But it does assist understanding of why employees contributing to a declining school system would countenance a tactic that would prompt more of that declination in order to enrich themselves personally.

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