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Gearing Up for Bout Over Breakaway School District

Belinda Davis, head of One Community, One School District, urges an audience at Baton Rouge's Unitarian Church to sign a petition opposing a breakaway school district.
Amy Jeffries

A constitutional amendment allowing for an independent school district in Southeast Baton Rouge fell fewer than 10 votes short of making it out of the legislature and onto the statewide ballot last year. The proponents, fed up with the shortcomings of the C-rated parish district, intend to try again. Opponents of the split are also readying for round two.

A new district in Southeast Baton Rouge would take 10 schools with it, including A-rated Parkview Elementary and B-rated Shenandoah Elementary.

With a Powerpoint full of school performance scores and demographics, Belinda Davis said her group, One Community, One School District is prepared to fight.

"These are good schools and we don't want to lose these schools or their 7,000 students," Davis said.

Proponents of the split, Local Schools for Local Children, are promising provisions to cover some legacy costs like retired teacher healthcare; state funding would go up about $240 per student for the remaining parish district. But Davis said it would still be left in distress.

"We get that money because of the negative consequences that the Southeast Community School District is pushing on us," she said. "They are further concentrating the rate of poverty in East Baton Rouge Parish schools."

Davis urged her audience of roughly 40 public school parents and concerned citizens at the Unitarian Church Tuesday night to call lawmakers and sign a forthcoming petition opposing the split.

At the meeting, Rep. Ted James said 900 signatures on a petition last year did  sway votes in the legislature.