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Concerns about new school district

Louisiana Politics

POSTED: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 9:09pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 9:46am

Belinda Davis said $2 million a year isn't nearly enough to cover the retirement and health benefits for former teachers, should the Southeast Baton Rouge Community School System be created. The $2 million was added as an amendment on the bill as it passed out of a House committee Monday.

"But really that's a band-aid on an amputation," Davis said.

Davis spoke to a crowd of dozens Tuesday at the Goodwood branch library, voicing her concerns as a parent about what the district breakaway could mean.

The group, One Community One School District, provided numbers estimating legacy costs at almost $7 million per year, far above the $2 million the breakaway district is offering.

Other concerns are capacity issues that would arise from a new district.

"When I tell you it's complicated, that's an understatement," said Danny Montelaro, with Baton Rouge Area Chamber.

Another contention is that this could set a dangerous precedent, since the proposed district is not a municipality with its own government -- like Zachary and Central -- but a collection of neighborhoods within a city.

"We may end up with country club districts next to extreme poverty districts in a single city," said Davis.

But those in favor of the new district said all concerns were addressed with the new amendments and that the issue is not about money or about race.

"It's about power and control," said Lionel Raines, a spokesperson for Local Schools Local Children, the group pushing for a new district. "The children are being used as pawns. That's unfortunate."

The bill plus a constitutional amendment to create the new school district is waiting to be voted on by the entire House. If it passes, voters -- both locally and across the state -- must also approve the new district.

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