SEBR breakaway group starts journey to incorporation

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The city of Central did it, and now a group in Southeast Baton Rouge is trying to do it too. The group pushing for a breakaway school district in that part of the city is taking it a step further - pushing for a whole separate city.

Norman Browning and members of the group Local Schools for Local Children have spent the last few years trying gain public and legislative support to break away from East Baton Rouge Schools and form a separate district in the southeast portion of the parish.

"We're separating from a poor school system," said Browning. "One that's failed our children for 30 years."

For a second year in a row, they brought their idea to the State Capitol with several proposed bills to create and fund the district. This year they did get legislative support to form the district, but they were unable to get enough backing on a bill that would allow for the use of state money to fund it.

"The feedback that we got from the legislators was, 'You're not a city. You're not a city. All the other districts that have been able to form were cities.' So we're looking at the possibility of incorporating," said Browning.

That possibility is in the early stages. Browning says his group is getting guidance from cities like Central, which successfully became a city eight years ago and has a high performing school district of its own. He says they're also getting some advice from a community group in Watson that, for reasons not related to education, is trying to become an incorporated area too.

"Go to the people, that you know, will probably be controversial or maybe against it and ask them why. Make sure you have your answers and you've already investigated what you want to do and why you want to do it. If it's for a good reason and a good purpose and it serves the community, they'll go along with it," said Darla Stegall with Neighbors in Action, the group working to get Watson incorporated.

Browning says in the next few months they will put more feelers out in the community to help them determine what the boundaries of the new city would be. He says after that's done, they can create a petition and gather signatures to get the incorporation process rolling.

Browning says his group has gotten positive feedback at a first public meeting, so a second gathering will happen this Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Bluebonnet library.

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