Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Many look for alternatives to EBR school cuts

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BATON ROUGE - The East Baton Rouge School Board could vote on $20-$30 million in cuts as soon as Thursday while parents and teachers are demanding another way. Years of flat state funding, dwindling tax collections in the district, and charter schools siphoning money have forced board members to make tough choices.

Nearly 200 positions could be eliminated including teachers, assistant principals, and bus drivers.

A public forum Tuesday night at the Goodwood Library put teachers and parents in the same room with school board members and city-parish leaders. Many of the frustrated parents and teachers proposed a number of alternatives like reductions at the district central office or more efficient use of electricity in school buildings.

"There's no silver bullet. The reality is the cuts are most likely going to happen," said the forum's moderator James Gilmore. "We need to have more conversations about the impacts of the cuts and the prioritization of what will be cut."

Board member Dadrius Lanus suggested reducing the district's custodial services contract with Aramark and contracting with local small companies instead. Board President Michael Gaudet offered a number of long-term changes like upgrading outdated district computer systems, granting school principals more autonomy, and providing better customer service to parents and students across the district.

Superintendent Warren Drake, who was not at the forum, told WBRZ Tuesday the majority of the cuts will not happen in the classroom and layoffs may be avoided.

"I don't think we're going to need to do that at all," said Drake.

About 125 interim teachers and support staff will not be replaced, he said. A few dozen teachers who had their positions eliminated at their schools are still waiting to be reassigned elsewhere in the district.

Drake said the school board may not vote on the cuts at Thursday's meeting. However, he does expect the board to approve pay raises recently passed in the state legislature so employees will see the bump on their July checks.


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