Following Racism Allegations, Bill to Redraw Central School District Boundaries Erases House Sign | Legislature
Despite fresh accusations of racism, a revamped bid to adjust central school district boundaries cleared a House committee from Tuesday 5-4, staging an end-of-term showdown at Louisiana House.
Sen. Bodi White, R-Central and sponsor of the bill, pushed back against criticism that his plan is aimed at keeping black students out of the highly ranked school district.
“It’s not about race,” White told the House Education Committee in his closing comments ahead of the vote. “It’s about overloading our school system too quickly.”
The bill would remove a planned subdivision, Belle Arbor, from school district boundaries, affecting up to 400 children and many of them living in black families.
White said he scaled back his original proposal after hearing complaints at a previous hearing.
This means that the Greenwood and Comite Estates subdivisions would be removed from the legislation and remain part of the school district.
Even with the latest changes, Albert Samuels, a resident of the Greenwood Subdivision in Central, called the bill “odious” and racially motivated.
“It seems like the only reason this bill is being pushed is because Senator White thinks this subdivision will be majority black,” Samuels said.
“That’s why we’re here. And so yeah, that’s actually what systemic racism looks like.”
The proposal, Senate Bill 189, then became the subject of action and controversy throughout the House.
He has already won the Senate’s lopsided approval.
The session ends on June 6.
House Education Committee Chairman Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, cast the fifth deciding vote in the split close to the party line.
White had temporarily suspended his bill earlier this month amid heavy criticism from the House Education Committee.
The controversial push to redraw the boundaries of the central school system suffered a major blow on Wednesday when the sponsor of the proposal…
“I listened to the criticism,” he told the committee on Tuesday.
The new version would only exclude Belle Arbor, a parcel that covers 53 acres in an area of 2 square miles, from the school district.
It is expected to include 183 homes just south of Hooper Road, near its intersection with Foster Road.
White said new limits are needed to prevent a surge of students in the central school system, which has about 4,700 children today.
He also said the property to be developed had been flooded for years and would be flooded again.
“They’ll end up having a house destroyed,” White said of new residents willing to buy homes that would cost between $250,000 and $300,000.
“It’s not if it’s going to flood, it’s when it floods there,” he added.
Keith Carmen, who lives in the Greenwood subdivision, opposed the bill.
Residents of two square miles of land west of the Comite River showed up at the State Capitol Wednesday morning to protest the bill…
Carmen said her area is trying to be annexed into the city of Central and may end up being part of the city, but not part of the Central school district.
“Allow us to manage this locally,” he said.
William Satterwhite made the same point.
“This is a local problem and it can be managed locally,” he said.
Edgar Cage, a Together Louisiana leader, noted that no community members have come forward to seek approval of the bill.
“What other choice do you have but to unwittingly postpone this,” he said, signifying a vote to kill the legislation.
Representatives Beryl Amedee, R-Houma voted “yes” on the bill; Chuck Owen, R-Leesville; Vinny St. Blanc, R-Franklin; Phillip Tarver, R-Lake Charles and Lance Harris, R-Alexandria.
Representatives Ken Brass, D-Vacherie voted “no”; Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge; Patrick Jefferson, D-Home and Tammy Phelps, D-Shreveport.
Check back with The Advocate for more details.