A slice of East Baton Rouge Parish, south of I-12 and north of I-10, is a step closer to having its own school district.
The House Education Committee passed the set of bills needed to establish the breakaway district. Approval now falls to the Appropriations committee next to evaluate cost.
Sen. Bodi White, the bill’s sponsor, is confident the breakaway won’t break the back of the school system left behind.
“They aren’t going to go away, they aren’t going bankrupt," White said. "EBR is the richest parish in the state. We have more taxable property than anybody else.”
But the fiscal note on White’s proposal estimates the state would have to increase the overall budget for public schools by almost a million dollars, and cover $300,000 in start-up costs for the new district.
In addition, the new district would remove almost $700,000, total, from other parishes around the state.
Belinda Davis is president of a group against the breakaway. She points out, White has been the force behind three districts that have already broken away from EBR.
“He needs to figure out a way to do it without harming your districts, and doesn’t harm the district that he’s breaking away from," said Davis, "because right now he’s going to devastate the EBR parish school system, and your districts might be next.”
The new district would pay back the old one for retirement and construction debts.
It’s unclear, however, how a shift in student population would affect class sizes in the districts. If classes become overcrowded, the districts will have to pay to expand.
The effort to form a breakaway district in Southeast Baton Rouge failed last session because of concerns about resources being spread thin. Rep. Jim Fannin, who chairs the appropriations committee, has been wary to put additional costs in the state budget. The school district, if it passes, won’t go into effect until fall 2015.