- Associated Press - Thursday, July 17, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A parents group in Baton Rouge has laid out a lengthy case against reducing the size of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1rjqImA ) the group says the plan lacks research to justify it and would give extra advantage to wealthier candidates and those with special interests supporting them.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for the state NAACP says the civil rights organization will sue if any of the five proposed new maps, ranging from 10 to as few as seven districts, are adopted as is.

Tania Nyman gave the presentation for the group One Community, One School District in a meeting at the new Main Library. The audience of about 50 was dominated by people opposed to reducing the size of the school board.

Nyman said it’s suspicious that the planned July 24 vote by the school board on reducing its size is taking place so close to Aug. 20-22, when candidates will qualify for the Nov. 4 school board elections.

“This will reduce the pool of candidates,” Nyman said.

Nyman, however, said her organization is interested in improving the school board and will be active in the coming elections in trying to get candidates to show how they will work more effectively to improve schools in Baton Rouge.

“Just because we are against reducing the size of the School Board does not mean we are for the status quo,” Nyman said.

Alfred Tillman Bester with the NAACP said the five proposed maps dilute African-American voting strength on the School Board and will increase the population in each district, making good representation more difficult. She also noted that any new redistricting plan will not have been pre-approved by the U.S. Justice Department, in contrast to the 11-member plan the board approved in November 2012, which has already gotten approval from the federal government.

“These plans, trust me, will be challenged if they pass,” Bester said.

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber is the most prominent supporter of shrinking the size of the board.

Nyman also pointed out that several large school systems in Louisiana have boards as large or larger than East Baton Rouge’s board.

Board member Barbara Freiberg said she thinks Jefferson Parish, which has a nine-member board, is a good model for East Baton Rouge Parish, saying Jefferson functions better with a smaller board.


Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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