EBR OVERHAUL: School System May Be Stripped Of Powers Over District Schools

The East Baton Rouge School System may soon be overhauled and given less and less control over it’s district’s public schools if legislation in the state legislature comes to fruition.

As the Advocate reports, the House Education Committee approved the SB636, proposed by State Sen. Bodi White (R-Central), with all of the committee’s Republicans voting for the overhaul and the Democrats voting against it.

The legislation would give school principals all the more power over the EBR school system and school board, both of which are portrayed as failing. Principles, under the new plan,  would allow principals of each district public school to make their own budgets, hire and fire employees themselves, and oversee teacher instruction and curriculum.

And, principals would be given the option to run their own food services, transportation and special education, subjects the school system normally handles itself.

School board members of the EBR school board voiced, not just their own opposition, but opposition that they say they have been told from principals across the school district.

“The folks in the parish don’t think we have a good school system,” White said. “If we don’t change anything, then we will do no better.”

The bill, a priority of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, also sparked unusual public testimony from East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux III and Metro Council Mayor President Pro Tem Chandler Loupe.

Domoine Rutledge, general counsel for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, said numerous principals have criticized the measure.

“Not only do they not want this,” Rutledge told the committee. “They don’t have the time or the skill set.”

White also told the House committee that another reason the legislation is a good idea is because of the violent crime aspect the the EBR school system faces. As noted, White mentioned that “Woodlawn High School alone was the subject of 128 calls to law enforcement officials in 2013 and 54 arrests.”

Metro Council Mayor President Pro Tem Chandler Loupe said supports the EBR overhaul because he is sent roughly 200-300 emails a day just on the district education system alone.

He said many of his constituents believe the East Baton Rouge Parish school board “is not supporting them.”

“I came here today to speak on their behalf,” Loupe said. “I support the bill.”

An attorney for the EBR school board, Evan Alvarez, said the legislation was aimed at the school board and is unconstitutional mainly because it only pertains to the one school district, saying the bill is “legally deficient.”

Among other powers to individual principals, the overhaul would mandate that principals work on two-year management contracts and would essentially be held responsible for their school meeting academic standards on student test scores, graduation and college acceptance rates.

At first, the legislation will only include or apply to high-performing principals in the district. However, by 2017, the overhaul would hit all principals in the district.

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