Louisiana School District Secession Receives Support from Wealthier and Whiter Communities

The Louisiana Supreme Court’s recent ruling favored advocates seeking to establish a predominantly white new school system in the Baton Rouge area, intensifying poverty in the remaining, majority-Black section of the district.

Once finalized, the separation is expected to result in a loss of 10,000 students and a reduction of 25% in the $700 million budget of the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Schools, according to school board President Dadrius Lanus.

“This is all rooted in institutional racism,” Lanus stated in an interview, highlighting the preferences of white, middle-class families for their children.

If successful, this will mark the fifth instance in almost 25 years where a segment of the district has seceded to establish its own educational institution. With the current student population of 40,000, 90% of the students in Louisiana’s second-largest district are impoverished.

Governing the formation of new school districts are a complex set of laws, with the most direct route involving the establishment of a new municipality corresponding to the desired breakaway area. A decade ago, residents from the affluent southeast portion of the parish launched a campaign to establish a new city called St. George.

In 2019, 54% of residents voted to incorporate St. George as an independent town. Subsequently, Baton Rouge authorities filed a lawsuit, leading to a late April ruling by the state’s high court in favor of the proponents of the new city. Republican Governor Jeff Landry will appoint the inaugural mayor of St. George along with five city council members.

Representing the St. George area on the East Baton Rouge School Board is member Nathan Rust, who supported the secession. Rust, currently unavailable for comment, raised concerns about the state of local schools on his campaign website.

According to Lanus, the existing district has a limited timeframe of 90 days to absorb the 10 existing schools and two properties designated for school construction inside the new city’s borders, all of which were funded by parish taxpayers.

The anticipated secession is expected to transfer a substantial amount of local tax revenue to the new city, adding stress to the financial resources of the East Baton Rouge district. Lanus approximates a loss of approximately $150 million in state and federal aid per pupil, in addition to funding earmarked for underprivileged students, magnet schools attendees, and pupils with special educational needs.

“I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve received from parents asking, ‘What will happen to my children?'” Lanus voiced, emphasizing the urgency of the situation.

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