Parents meet to oppose breakaway southeast school district

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 11:51pm

Carlos Thomas is a father of two children, ages three and six.

"For the greater good of the community, it would make more sense for us to stay and work together," he said.

He supports One Community One School District. Its goal is to keep ten schools in Southeast Baton Rouge from leaving the East Baton Rouge Parish School System.

The argument for creating a Southeast school district is that those schools would not be weighed down by the rest of the district, which would allow them to be more competitive.

But the argument against it could satisfy both sides of the political spectrum: increased school choice, increased diversity, and smaller costs.

According to OCOSD, the proposed district contains families that are mostly white, and wealthier than average.

"As parents, we value the economic and the racial diversity that we have in our school district," said OCOSD president Belinda Davis, "and we don't want to see that further compromised."

When a bill proposing the breakaway district went through the state legislature last year, it was written in a way that would force EBRPSS to pay the legacy costs associated with those schools, even though the staff no longer worked there.

"Our teachers and our bus drivers that helped get those kids to school in these breakaway districts and educated them, they now bear no responsibility for any of their retirement benefits," Davis stated.

Thomas would prefer to move his children out of private schools and into public schools.

"I shouldn't have to pay $22,000 to have a language-immersion for my kids," he said.

But he would not move them if the new district is created.

Residents of Zachary and Central pay much higher property tax rates to afford their schools and the specialized programs they offer.

But the leaders of the breakaway group, Local Schools for Local Children, say their plan will not demand a raise in taxes. So Thomas is skeptical it would be able to provide the academic environment he sees in East Baton Rouge's magnet schools.

"The proof's in the pudding," He said. "When you look at where Baton Rouge High and McKinley Magnet are sending kids to universities, it's fairly impressive."  

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