Parents group plots strategy to preserve EBR schools during legislative session

Parents group plots strategy to preserve EBR schools during legislative session
Photo provided by staff

POSTED: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 11:41am

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 12:26pm

The eyes of parents around East Baton Rouge Parish will be on the state capitol the next three months.

There are several bills that could change the direction of our school district. And parents who like the school system are figuring out what they need to do to keep it intact.

The last two years, a breakaway district in southeast Baton Rouge was the focus of the debate. The potential southeast district hasn't gone away, but members of One Community One School District now have other possibilities they need to prepare for.

"This is late in the game," mentioned Belinda Davis, the group's president, "so how well thought our are your ideas for changing the district going to be?"

Even though the legislative session has already started, One Community One School District still does not know all the threats it has to defend against. It wants to preserve the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, but some of the bills that could change it have not even been filed yet.

One of those is being crafted and supported by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, which announced last week it was looking at possible changes to the district's operating structure. "Evidently, BRAC has been meeting for, they say several months, with groups of community stakeholders and business leaders," Davis stated. "We have no idea who those people are."

In 2012 and 2013, the group helped stop the creation of an independent southeast school district, which will probably be debated again this year. At the group's meeting Tuesday night, they discussed some of the other possibilities, including a bill that would split the current district into north, middle, south, and southeast, which would be mostly separate from each other.

"It's a very vague bill," Davis claimed, "there's not a lot of detail involved, so exactly what that bill is going to look like could turn out to be very problematic for the district."

It was authored by State Senator Bodi White (R-Central), who has led the push for the southeast district the last couple years. Davis believes this version has just as many things wrong with it.

"It looks like it has unfunded mandates for the school district, which are unconstitutional," Davis stated. "It looks like it's going to bring us back under scrutiny from the Justice Department, in terms of segregation."

A couple of additional groups, such as BRAC and the newly-formed Committee for Progress, have said they want to help write legislation to change the way our schools are run. Davis is happy they want to get involved, but she believes the most important change is well underway.

"We've made enormous growth over a five-year period," she said, referring to improving school performance scores in East Baton Rouge, "and we want to make sure that whatever changes are made don't dismantle the progress that we've made."

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