Break away school district moves forward

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 6:02pm

BATON ROUGE, La (FOX44) — The battle to break away from the East Baton Rouge Parish School System continues. Parents were back at the capitol Wednesday to fight for their children.

Senator Bodi White proposed a bill that would create the Southeast Baton Rouge Community School District. In the proposed bill, ten schools in the southeast part of the parish would branch out and become their own district. The goal is to get the schools performing better than they are right now.

The bill did move forward, but not without a fight. The education committee heard from both sides for hours. Both sides of the issue are passionate, saying they want what's best for their kids.

"What if we don't do anything?" BESE Board Member Chas Roemer asked. "What if we just sit on our hands and act like there's not a problem."

Some parents living in East Baton Rouge parish say that's not an option. "I'm at the end of my rope," one father said. "What do I have to do to get my kid in a wholesome environment in school?"

Those parents say if something doesn't change they're going to lose their best and brightest. "Zachary will continue to grow. Central will continue to grow. Ascension Parish will continue to grow. Livingston Parish will continue to grow," Roemer threatens. "All families with the ability to leave the current system will leave if they have not already left!"

Not everyone agrees with him. "If there's something that we need to be doing to make things better, then we need to be doing it now and we need to be doing it for everyone," says mother Christina Dorsa.

Critics of the plan say it's not fair. "We need to focus on all of the students and not just the fifteen percent that are in that area" adds another parent.

They say 90% of students pushed out of the proposed school district live below the poverty level. "You are going to expel 2,200 poor African American children from that community," says Demoine Rutledge. "They take those schools and leave a 60 million dollar deficit in our tax plan! We will not be able to complete the tax plan."

However, people fought back in favor of the bill. "If they can't manage their money and they can't do it, then they just can't do it," Senator Bodi White says.

About 6,800 students would be impacted if the bill were to pass. That's about 15% of East Baton Rouge Parish Schools.

Still, several things need to happen before the schools are allowed to branch out. They need to go before the House Floor for debate and a vote. If it passes there, it goes to the voters. More than half of all voters across the state and in East Baton Rouge parish need to approve the move.

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