With Tuesday’s filing deadline looming in the Legislature, a diverse pair of local lawmakers has introduced legislation for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber that would put into practice BRAC’s recently unveiled plan for restructuring the EBR school system.
Reps. Steve Carter, a Republican, and Dalton Honoré, a Democrat, are co-sponsoring the bill, which would keep the EBR school district intact as a single financial entity but transfer broad decision-making power and authority to individual school principals.
“Our focus has been to develop an education solution that is unifying to the whole community,” says BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp. “Education is a key component of economic competitiveness, and we want an education solution that represents a dramatic change, one that improves school performance and that keeps the district together as a single financial entity.”
Supporters behind the measure have been meeting in recent weeks with a cross section of community leaders, as well as the legislative delegation and EBR schools Supt. Bernard Taylor to elicit their ideas and keep them up to speed with the plans.
“We’re trying to make sure everyone is on the same page,” says Carter, who chairs the House Education Committee. “We’re all working together to make sure the bill that is filed is in the best interest of the children of East Baton Rouge Parish.”
If enacted, the bill’s changes would be transformative and would not happen overnight. Though the bill would go into effect Aug. 1, it would be three years before the transition was complete. The measure is also revenue neutral, though it changes who has decision-making authority over how education funds are spent. “The view of this is that the EBR School Board is responsible for creating a per pupil funding formula and distributing those revenues to principals,” Knapp says.
The proposed legislation is different than another education bill filed by Sen. Bodie White, R-Central. His measure calls for keeping together EBR Schools as an entity in name only and parsing the district into four, semi-autonomous sub-districts. But Knapp suggests White may be willing to join forces with the Carter-Honoré bill.
“I will let Sen. White speak for himself,” says Knapp. “But we have been working behind the scenes with him. We are hopeful.” White has previously said his bill is just a starting point in the dialogue to address problems with the school system and that he would be open to working with others.
Building a coalition of lawmakers who are on both sides of the political spectrum and are also racially diverse is significant, and Knapp believes it will go a long way toward helping the bill get passed.
“To have Steve as chair of House Education and Honoré, who has been a strong voice for education and is also African American, shows this is a broad-based effort,” says Knapp. “It’s a new direction for education.”