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Community divided on charter school funding

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BASTROP, La. (KNOE 8 NEWS) - Residents in the Beekman Taxing District, located in Morehouse Parish, gathered to discuss a new proposed tax on the ballot for May.

Even though the tax only affects people living in the district, it raises some big questions on how charter schools are funded.

And at Tuesday night's meeting, the conversation got heated.

Right now, those living in the Beekman Taxing District pay $5 for every $1,000 of their assessed property value. If this tax is passed, they will start paying $10 on every $1,000 of their assessed property values.

Beekman School is actually 100 years old and only became a charter this year.

We spoke with Tambra Hodges who graduated from Beekman and she said she supports the charter school, just not the tax.

"It's only being paid by people with in the Beekman School District, but yet half of the students attending are from out of the Beekman School District. And they are not paying anything what so ever," Hodges said.

There wasn't a huge turnout at this meeting, but the room was clearly divided.

Those supporting the tax said it will only go to build new facilities and not operational cost. And they said new facilities are needed to provide a top notch education.

"They have to look at the tax benefiting every student who comes here every day no matter where they live. And students who live in the district will benefit and the students who are living outside the district will benefit. So there is mutual benefit for everybody," Principal Roy McCoy said.

Right now, many of Beekman's classrooms are in portable buildings. The tax money would put 18 classrooms in a permanent structure and build a new cafeteria. The money would also go to land and sewer improvements.

But Hodges said that's not enough reason to put all of the tax burden on the entire Beekman community.

"It's not right to ask us to support the school, and the others come for free, without any obligation," Hodges said.

Beekman Charter is funded by three entities. State and parish dollars follow the students and then tax money is collected through that district.

Principal Roy McCoy said if the tax is not passed, it will just take the school longer to build the new facilities.

Hodges said she also has a problem with the timing of the vote. It is a special election and nothing else is on the ballot.

The Beekman community will go to the polls on May 3.

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