Mayor Waites Statement Regarding the BESE Board Approval of GEO Academies Charter Application


It is difficult to fully express my level of disappointment in the January 18th BESE Board decision to approve the Geo Academies Charter School application to locate in the City of Baker School District. My position is based upon our collective community’s overwhelming support for public schools and opposition to charter schools as a means of defunding, dismantling, and privatizing our public education system. On Tuesday I was joined by, Baker Schools Superintendent Dr. De'Ette Perry, Police Chief Carl Dunn, Councilpersons Rochelle Dunn and Robert Young and community leaders at the BESE Board meeting where they, along with the overwhelming majority of those in attendance, voiced strong opinions in opposition to this application. Senator Regina Barrow also sent a letter of opposition.


Approximately 30% of the Baker student body is currently enrolled in a dozen charter schools located in the immediate vicinity of the Baker School System. The list of charter schools which have appropriated students away from Baker are as follows: Geo Prep MidCity Baton Rouge, Geo Next Generation High School, Geo Prep Academy, Madison Prep Academy, Louisiana Key Academy, Impact Charter, Advantage Charter, Collegiate Academy, Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy, University View Academy, Helix Aviation Academy and IDEA Public Schools. This BESE board approval clears the way for an additional Geo Academies School expansion directly into the city limits of Baker where the entire student body is less than 1300 students.


The very idea that a dozen charter schools funneling funding away from four public schools in Baker is not harmful, is willfully turning a blind eye to the undermining of our democratic system of government and right to self-determination. Further, it is creating a system of taxation without representation in majority Black areas of this state .by the Louisiana Department of Education and BESE Board.


The letters of public support which Geo Academies Charter Schools submitted with their application wereas exposed during the BESE Board meeting as largely fallacious by local community leaders. The only community engagement GEO presented consisted of letters of support, aA vast majority of which were found to have been misrepresented as Baker residents. When copies were obtained, only two letters were from actual Baker residents and one of those two persons retracted their support after they were fully informed of what was taking place.


There was zero engagement with the City of Baker administration, the City of Baker School District, the community at large or any local leadership with regard to Geo Academies desire to open a facility in the City of Baker.


It is unacceptable to come to any city and not even ask anyone if they are interested in adding another unremarkable low performing entity to their school district. And it completely exposes the lack of any true concern to improve the system and help the community. How can you possibly help without even so much as asking those who live, study, and work there what the needs are?


We cannot and will not stand idly by and allow this type of disrespectful behavior to continue. The City of Baker does not need additional schools, we need better performing schools. and Geo Academies has poor performance grades which have been declining year over year.

We can look at study after study that shows us these institutions, which are generally owned out of state corporations, are targeting our community. A 2013 analysis of Louisiana charter schools conducted by Stanford University found that charter schools in New Orleans and Baton Rouge had a ratio of 82% Black students vs. 13% white students enrolled in the 91 facilities studied. How do we interpret this kind of glaring disparity in the “school choice” conversation?


We see year after year that charter schools are not performing remarkably better than our public schools even though the standards for which charters operate are not comparable. Everyone should be deeply concerned because the reporting for charter performance is far from transparent. Meanwhile public schools are held to intense scrutiny and even impossible hurdles meant to hobble them if remanded to the Recovery School District (RSD).


Ultimately, we are witness to state administrative bodies who refuse to engage with local government, community leaders, the local school districts, or the public in any capacity with respect to our needs, wants or how to manage issues within our community. They are eager to hand over public education via the RSD fast track to private entities. Private entities whose corporate headquarters are largely located out of state and who bear little to no responsibilities or accountability similar to what public schools are forced to comply with. And it is affecting our Black children, our Black neighborhoods, our Black communities and cities, by an overwhelming majority in comparison to white children, neighborhoods, communities and cities in the state of Louisiana.


Let me assure you that we will persevere in the fight against this and the further encroachment by Charter schools into our school district.


I find this unacceptable. I hope you do too. In closing, I ask you to join me in vehemently protesting with the members of the BESE Board who voted in favor of this application. Their contact information is as follows:


Mr. James D. Garvey, Jr.

Hailey, McNamara, Hall, Larmann, & Papale, LLP (Office) One Galleria Blvd., Suite 1400

Metairie, LA 70001

504.836.6500 (Office)

504.836.6565 (Fax)

James.Garvey@la.gov

ν Sandy Holloway

3rd BESE District

P. O. Box 94064, Capitol Station

Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9064

225.342.5840 (Office)

225.342.5843 (Fax)

Sandy.Holloway@la.gov

ν Michael Melerine

4th BESE District

P. O. Box 94064, Capitol Station

Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9064

225.342.5840 (Office)

225.342.5843 (Fax)

Michael.Melerine@la.gov

ν Ashley Ellis

5th BESE District

P. O. Box 94064, Capitol Station

Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9064

225.342.5840 (Office)

225.342.5843 (Fax)

Ashley.Ellis@la.gov

ν Ronnie Morris

6th BESE District

P. O. Box 94064, Capitol Station

Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9064

225.342.5840 (Office)

225.342.5843 (Fax)

Ronnie.Morris@la.gov

ν Holly Boffy

7th BESE District

P.O. Box 94064, Capitol Station

Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9064

337.354.5572 (Cell)

225.342.5843 (Fax)

Holly.Boffy@la.gov