Superintendent defends sales tax renewal

East Baton Rouge Parish Schools Superintendent Warren Drake today defended the district’s proposed 1-cent sales tax renewal, declaring if voters reject the tax on Saturday that every school district employee’s salary would be dramatically cut.

If all three parts of the one-penny tax pass, 51% of the generated tax revenue will fund technology and building projects, 41% will maintain current teacher salaries and the rest goes toward new truancy and discipline programs.

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber announced support for two of the three propositions last month, but is opposing Proposition 2, which funds truancy and discipline programs, because it says the plans weren’t scrutinized enough in development.

Drake, who’s headed the district since 2015, defends the plans for truancy and discipline programs, saying having a productive, educational environment is nonnegotiable.

“We have to make sure there is a place for (disruptive) students, but we also have to make sure the learning environment is always protected,” says Drake. “The teacher must be able to teach without being disturbed. That is critical.”

Nonprofit Keep Louisiana Working distributed opposition fliers in residents’ mailboxes earlier this month. Other tax opponents argue not enough money is being put towards specific school renovations.

Since the tax was first enacted in 1998, 18 schools have been built and 54 schools renovated with generated funds. Of the renovated schools, 32 are in north East Baton Rouge Parish; 22 are in the south. Drake did not provide a geographic breakdown on the new schools, but did add 24,500 Chromebooks have been purchased over the past two years for students.

The tax would raise $935 million over 10 years for the school system.

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