It started with the schools.
Four years ago, a group of concerned parents and advocates for improved public education in a middle-class suburb southeast of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, began lobbying for the creation of an independent school district to break away from the city’s wasteful and poorly performing public system. The East Baton Rouge Parish public schools spend some $12,200 per student per year, according to the Louisiana Department of Education, which is considerably above the national average of just over $10,000 per year, and yet the district ranks 55th of 71 school districts in academic performance. That, in a state languishing in the bottom five nationally, would seem to be the cause of mass outrage throughout the parish — and in fact it has served as the impetus for the incorporations of two suburbs in the northern part of East Baton Rouge. Those two cities, Zachary and Central, now boast public schools rated in the top five of the state’s districts and are thriving little communities with rising populations and property values.