EBR Schools face funding problems: community worried about the future

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POSTED: Thursday, July 10, 2014 - 10:30pm

UPDATED: Friday, July 11, 2014 - 10:00am

The East Baton Rouge School District is running out of money. They are not getting enough funding at the state level which ultimately means no raises, less programming and a questionable future for the school system.

"The biggest issue that faces the district is the financial stability," said Superintendent, Dr. Bernard Taylor.

Superintendant Dr. Bernard Taylor tells it like it is. He's lead the East Baton Rouge School District for two years and he says frankly East Baton Rouge needs more cash.

"We are transferring an inordinate amount of money that if something isn't done I don't know how the district financially can maintain the level of programming that it does in the every way that it does," noted Dr. Taylor.

The biggest question is where's the money going?

"There was an 8 percent cut this year which was tough and in all four years I have been on the board we've had to face these kinds of cuts," said EBR School Board member, Craig Freeman.

School board members like Craig freeman say those dollars make up most of the budget and not enough of its staying here.

"Hopefully we can get some help from the state, so we want our tax dollars to stay in Baton Rouge."

Parents like Julie Richard understand money is tight.

"Unfortunately there are going to be cuts."

But knowing her hard earned dollars are not helping her son succeed is a little frustrating.

"The money is going elsewhere and I think that's a real shame," noted Richard.

Freeman says he’s seen the struggle over the past few years.

‘There was some fat to cut before but now the fat is gone," said Freeman.

“It was a tough year for principals,” he said. “It was a tough year for teachers in the classroom as well."

The lowest performing schools got the least amount of cuts because those schools need the most resources to be successful.

"Our highest performing schools are the ones that faced a lot of pressure."

And out of our 82 school in East Baton Rouge the charter schools don't get the same amount of state funding.

"The other things we have to look at are how we allocate money for other resources, so were going to have to take a closer look at charter schools,” said Freeman. “As parish we've chartered more schools than any others in the state."

But Dr. Taylor saved the school district one million dollars last year which is still not enough to close the gap that's slowly getting bigger.

"We’re going to really have to ramp that up in the upcoming years to make sure the system stays whole."

And Richard says she’s happy with what her sons offered in East Baton Rouge School District.

There are a lot more opportunities for him here. He has the chance to go into stem schools, magnet schools. He has other opportunities that we didn't even have when I lived in Colorado."

But she tells NBC33 moving forward without those state dollars and ongoing financial uncertainty; she’s scared what’s in store for the district a few years down the road.

"And it's going to kick us later when our kids decide they are leaving, because there is nothing for them here."

But freeman says there are ways to get the money back it will just take extra work and strategy until the state decides to give a little more.

"We’re going to have to go online, share resources are aggressive with grants,” said Freeman. “Dr. Taylor has been really good about getting us grants."

The East Baton Rouge school system will continue to face challenges like many districts across the state. But in Freeman’s eyes the district needs to be more resourceful and creative to make sure its stays a float.

But Richard says, it takes more than just a dedicated board and more money.

"It takes the whole community to be involved with it to make it work."

One of the schools that took the biggest hit was Baton Rouge High School which is one of the districts highest performing schools. State funding decreased 3.9 million dollars last year and this year they tell us they could be facing the same challenges.

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