EBR school officials voting on reducing board size

EBR school officials voting on reducing board size

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board will vote tonight whether or not to downsize the board with one of five proposed redistricting plans.

The various plans reduce the number of districts from the current 11 to as few as seven and as many as ten. Many supporters are hoping for nine, saying research nationwide shows smaller boards are more effective.

"The main focus here is getting an effective school board that makes good decisions that lead to better student achievement, but it's also a fiscally conservative approach because you'd probably save more than $40,000 a year by reducing the number of members down to nine," said Michael DiResto, senior vice president for economic competitiveness at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.

A similar redistricting proposal narrowly failed in the Louisiana Legislature this year. Opponents say with qualifying for November elections now only a month away, it's too late to redraw district lines.

"We have hurt candidates that want to run for the school board because there's so much uncertainty out there. They don't know what district they'll be running in. They may not even know if they're in a district that they want to be a candidate for," said district 9 board member Jerry Arbour.

But other members say redistricting should be resolved sooner rather than later.

"There are very few members that I know have declared that they are running," said district 6 board member Craig Freeman. "Martin Luther King said, 'There's never a wrong time to do the right thing,' so I'd rather get this right before an election rather than suffer through a bad election and then have to deal with the consequences for the future."

Several local groups have come out against redistricting in recent weeks, including the NAACP, parent group One Community, One School District, and both executive committees for local democrats and republicans.

Freeman offered a metaphor as to why some may be opposed to the changes.

"Politicians like their jobs and so when you say you're going to shrink the politicians, the people that squeal the most are the politicians. I still do think that politicians are like diapers. They have to be changed often for exactly the same reason," he said.

Under one of the proposals that would reduce the board to nine districts, the average constituent increase would be around 7,600 per district.

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