BATON ROUGE - A controversial bill that restructures how the East Baton Rouge School System operates is one step closer to becoming law. It passed the Senate already, and Tuesday it passed out of the House Education Committee.
"It's an attempt to try to give more control back to schools and back to communities," said Sen. Bodi White (R-Central), who authored the bill.
White presided over his contentious bill, flanked on both sides by heads of law enforcement who support him in East Baton Rouge Parish.
"I do not see it as adversarial, although some may," said District Attorney Hillar Moore. "I just want a better outcome for our kids."
The bill is pitched as a way to improve educational outcomes in the parish. The sheriff and district attorney said that better educated citizens means less crime.
"There is a direct correlation to crime and a lack of education," said Sheriff Sid Gautreaux.
Not everyone agreed with the bill, that would shift power from the superintendent and give it to principals at their schools. They would be in charge of their own budget, plus daily operations like food service and transportation.
"You're giving them the same equal authority as the superintendent in a school," said Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge). "Not having anyone over them to determine if they worked within the laws, budgets."
Rep. Alfred Williams said the bill lacks information on how it will improve student achievement or discipline, two problems that plague the current school system.
"I also want you to show me in this bill where discipline is addressed," Williams said. Those are the two most important issues in EBR."
The East Baton Rouge School System attorney called the bill unconstitutional. The bill passed on a vote of 10-6.
The full house will now vote on it. It has already passed the Senate.