Teachers, bus drivers slam school district's budget
BATON ROUGE - Thursday's East Baton Rouge School Board meeting left many system workers upset. They are not happy with the 2014-2015 budget board members approved.
System administration proposed the budget to members to address the system's $30 million deficit. The balanced spending plan cut teacher positions, asked each school to cut expenses by four to six percent and designed a new scale for raises.
Bus drivers were most upset, it appears. They said they were misled by the administration about the new scale.
"I feel deceived," EBR bus driver Kathy Keys said. Keys has been with the school system for 28 years. "We never asked, but no one told us."
The pay schedule now gives EBR schools employees raises by steps instead of by service to the system, which gives newer hires larger raises than people who have been employed for the district for decades.
Driver Cindy Kendricks questioned the raise system, "People with one year, two year.. $1200?" "Then a person with 20 years, you're going to put them in with a $250 raise," she continued.
The new pay scale works for teachers as well. Rank and file employees saw little pay raises, but administration and central office workers saw significant increases.
Board member Kenyetta Nelson-Smith called out Superintendent Bernard Taylor on what she said was "unfair" raises.
"Some people are getting a hundred dollars and some people are getting $14,000," Nelson-Smith said as she asked for a possible raise cap.
"The answer is no," Taylor replied in front of the packed meeting room. Taylor defended higher pay for some employees by saying he needed to make those salaries competitive.
He blames the shortfall on the increase number of charter schools in the parish, which takes funding away from the public school district.
Taylor argued the school system is moving money around to make up deficits.
"Essentially, what you are doing is robbing Peter to pay Paul," Taylor said during the meeting.
Nelson-Smith still voted in favor of the budget despite her concerns. Board members Smith, Ware-Jackson, Arbour, Lee and Lynch also voted in favor of the budget.
Members Freiberg and Bernard voted against the budget. Members Freeman and Tatman were not in attendance.
The budget allowed cuts to a math coach, a director of school activities, four school resource liaisons along with other positions.
The approved budget also includes cut for new technology, furniture and a bilingual course for students.
Outside of the budget, board members also discussed a system-backed audit on recent cheating and diploma scandals. The state is investigating wrongdoing dealing with the issues. The board said its audit found no malice but sloppy record keeping. You can read the audit HERE.