Concerned parents prepare for fight to maintain size of EBRPSS

Education
Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - 10:12pm

The parents who make up One Community, One School District are planning for a fight in the state legislature.

They held their first public meeting Tuesday night to discuss changes to the educational landscape of East Baton Rouge Parish.

The group's main goal is to continue to improve the East Baton Rouge Public School System while stopping sections of town from breaking off and creating new, small districts.

A vote to create a breakaway school district for Southeast Baton Rouge failed over the summer. It would have encompassed the area between Interstates 10 and 12 and Airline Highway.

The group's president, Belinda Davis, said at least three plans are being developed to carve pieces out of EBRPSS, and another vote will likely take place when the spring session begins at the state capitol.

In support of a unified school district, Davis pointed out how many accolades Baton Rouge schools are earning, even though the poverty rate among students is significantly higher than in places such as Zachary which have recently seceded.

"We are doing an incredible job with what we know is a student body that faces enormous barriers to educational attainment," she said.

OCOSD also pointed out that, while small may be better when discussing class size, bigger has many advantages for a school district as a whole. And if the southeast corridor does split off, students will lose out on many opportunities.

"Because we can draw from all over the parish," said Tania Nyman, "we have the means to create specialized programs that meet a really small population."

EBRPSS Superintendent Bernard Taylor spoke at Tuesday's meeting. He said parents need to be more focused on how their children are taught, rather than trying to limit which students can attend which schools.

"This issue is about perception," Taylor said. "Misperception, false perception."

Taylor urged everyone in the audience to attend school board meetings, and to convince friends and family to attend, as well. He said going to those meetings is a good way to be informed about everything impacting students around the city.

"I cannot come into Baton Rouge," Taylor said, "and I did not come into Baton Rouge, with all-knowing, and the vision to say 'this is what's best for you and your children.' I'm going to ask you what's best for your children."

Because of the way schools receive funding from the state, a constitutional amendment is required to create a new school district, and votes on amendments need a two-thirds majority to pass. The vote last summer got the required approval from the State Senate, but not the House of Representatives.

OCOSD says it is concerned proponents of the small school district will spend more money during the session that starts in April, so it is trying to mobilize members now in order to protect EBRPSS in its current state.

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