GOP against shrinking EBR school board _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- School Board vice president Tarvald Smith, speaks during discussion of a motion to authorize the Superintendent to contract for professional services to complete a separate audit by the Board to address the findings in the Louisiana Department of Education's EBR schools audit during a meeting of the East Baton Rouge School Board Thursday. during a meeting of the East Baton Rouge School Board Thursday. At left is Board member Evelyn Ware-Jackson.

East Baton Rouge Parish’s chapter of the Republican Party has come out against a proposal to reduce the number of members serving on the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board from 11 to a smaller number.

The local GOP’s executive committee voted 13-1 to urge the School Board to maintain its current 11 members and “not bow to pressure that results in unnecessary turmoil and confusion, as well as larger districts farther from the people,” according to a news release from the party issued late Sunday night.

Two members of the School Board, Jerry Arbour and Connie Bernard, sit on the executive committee of the parish chapter of the Republican Party, which met on Thursday. Arbour voted for the resolution opposing board reduction, while Bernard was the lone vote against the resolution, said Woody Jenkins, chairman of the parish Republican Party.

The Louisiana NAACP also announced last week its opposition to the proposed smaller board, though for different reasons.

The civil rights organization says the five proposed maps the School Board will consider at a meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday would dilute the voting strength of racial minorities and that it will file suit if the school system adopts one of the five maps.

The NAACP, like the local GOP, urged the board to stick with the 11-member plan the board adopted two years ago, which was later approved by the U.S. Justice Department.

A parents group, One Community, One School District also announced its opposition to reducing the number of members on the board.

The new proposed maps call for boards ranging from seven to 10 members, though most of the discussion has been about reducing the board to nine members. Any changes, if approved, would be in effect in time for the Nov. 4 elections.

The local GOP, in its announcement, argued that a smaller board would raise the cost of elections and make it “less likely that an ordinary citizen could run and win with a grass-roots campaign.”

The party also questioned making the change so close to qualifying Aug. 20 to 22.

A smaller board would allow the “liberal” Baton Rouge Area Chamber, the idea’s most prominent proponent, to “pour money into the campaigns of its hand-picked candidates and attempt to control the school board,” the local GOP concluded.

“We need an independent school board that answers to the voters, not special interest groups!” the local GOP said in its announcement.