Unable to agree on what to do, the Central School Board decided more work needs to be done Monday on proposals to require parents to show more documentation to enroll in Central public schools, including evidence that renters don’t have homestead-exempt property outside the city.
The board did agree unanimously to a small change which makes clear only full-time employees of the school district can enroll their children in Central schools if they live outside of Central.
That means contract employees, such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers, can’t send their children to school in Central if they live outside the city limits.
The board voted down, by a 2-5 margin, a proposal that would go further, limiting out-of-district enrollment to the children of certified teachers, administrators and other personnel. Only board members Willard Easley and Jim Lloyd voted for that proposal.
The principal at Central Intermediate School, Rhonda Taylor, said she’s worried the proposal would drive a wedge between educators and support workers.
“I don’t want to look at where they live,” she said. “I want to hire the best person I can hire.”
Superintendent Michael Faulk said he will try again to craft new residency rules and bring them to the board’s Policy Committee for further discussion.
“We have to make sure that the services we are providing are in fact going to the children who live in Central,” Faulk said.
Enrollment in Central schools, about 4,400 students, has steadily increased since 2007 when the district broke away from the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.
A Central administrator said last year the school district catches about 80 “zone jumpers” each year, some who go as far as to rent apartments just so their children qualify to attend Central schools.
Any changes would take effect in the 2014-15 school year.
Faulk said he wants families considering moving here to have enough time to get together the documents they’ll need.
Earlier this month, Faulk proposed increasing from four to seven the number of documents proving residence that parents would have to produce to enroll a student in Central.
Newly required documents would have included homeowner’s or rental insurance, neither of which all homeowners or renters are required by law to carry.
On Monday, Faulk said he softened some of his previous proposals after getting a lot of feedback.
So showing proof of such insurance would be optional; later in Monday’s meeting it looked like he’d drop the idea altogether. He also is dropping requiring that new enrollees to produce an income tax return, something in effect now.
Still in the mix is to require certification from the tax assessor that a family doesn’t have a homestead exemption somewhere else — the exemption is reserved for the house in which the family actually lives.
Faulk has said the Louisiana High School Athletic Association uses the document to determine player eligibility.
Board member Sharon Browning said she wondered how families, who have never owned property before, could prove a negative.
Central already requires that parents supply multiple documents to enroll their children, but not everyone possesses them.
Faulk had suggested requiring both a voter registration card and a state-issued identification card such as a driver’s license.
That prompted much discussion Monday, but little clarity.
“I don’t like requiring people to be a registered voter,” said board member David Walker.
“The deeper you dig, the more complicated it gets,” Faulk said finally.