I overlooked a number of bills in my earlier post on the subject, so I wanted to highlight a few more state legislators who are sponsoring potentially harmful education legislation in the upcoming session. (Just a reminder: the 2013 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature convenes at noon today – Monday, April 8th)…


House Bill 597: Provides for the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program. This bill, filed by Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R – Dist. 5), is simply another attempt to implement Governor Jindal’s misguided and politically-motivated voucher program – euphemistically called “Scholarships for Educational Excellence” – that was ruled unconstitutional earlier this year. [Email Rep. Seabaugh]


House Bill 598: Provides relative to performance-based scores and letter grades assigned to public schools and school districts. This year, Louisiana began its transition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which establish a significantly higher bar for academic performance. Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, the Louisiana Department of Education will introduce a new series of standardized tests used to measure performance on the Common Core standands and it is anticipated that these tougher tests will result in an initial drop in school and district performance scores. HB 598, filed by Rep. Regina Ashford Barrow (D – Dist. 29), would direct BESE to establish a new 100-point scale for calculating school and district performance scores. Moreover, it would prohibit the state board from granting rewards or taking corrective actions based on these new performance scores until the 2016-17 school year. While LDOE certainly needs to establish a clear and comprehensive plan for adjusting the state’s accountability system (and perhaps the state’s pupil progression plan, as well) to ensure that schools and districts are not unfairly penalized during the adoption of CCSS, this bill would effectively suspend any accountability for the next three years. [Email Rep. Barrow]


House Bill 642: Establishes and provides for the Special Education Scholarship Program. This bill, filed by Rep. Nancy Landry (R – Dist. 31), would establish a voucher program for special education students that would allow them to attend designated “regional special education schools” focused on “special education and related services designed to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities.” Such a program would only serve to further segregate students with special needs and would likely conflict with the “least restrictive environment” mandate of IDEA. Furthermore, these vouchers would no doubt create perverse incentives for both local education agencies (LEAs) and the entities running the proposed regional special education schools. LEAs (districts as well as many of the state’s charter schools), seeking to reduce the financial and administrative costs of educating students with severe disabilities or impairments, could be tempted to pressure the families of these students to enroll in the voucher program. Moreover, since the sustainability of regional special education schools would be largely dependent on voucher funding, they would have little incentive to take the steps that would allow special education students to eventually return to a regular education setting. [Email Rep. Landry]


House Bill 648: Requires the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to adopt rules requiring high school students to complete at least one course offered by a BESE-authorized online or virtual course provider as a prerequisite to graduation. This bizarre legislation, filed by Rep. Steven Pylant (R – Dist. 20), would require all high school students, beginning with students entering ninth grade in the fall of 2014, to complete one online or virtual course in order to receive a diploma. Rep. Pylant’s motivations for filing this bill are difficult to discern (a cursory check of his recent campaign donors did not surface any obvious connection to online course providers), especially since most high school students already have a range of required and elective courses available to them in actual “analog” classrooms. Establishing a blanket online course requirement seems capricious at best and is most definitely premature given that the Course Choice program is still in its infancy. [Email Rep. Pylant]


House Bill 660: Provides for policies, procedures, and programs relative to school prayer, the pledge of allegiance, and instruction regarding the pilgrim fathers and the U.S. flag in certain school districts. Rep. Katrina Jackson (D – Dist. 16), the sponsor of this bill, is either unaware of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, or thinks it’s permissible to waste the legislature’s time and attention on a self-serving stunt to burnish her credentials with Christian conservatives. [Email Rep. Jackson]


House Bill 661: Provides relative to charter schools. This bill, filed by New Orleans East’s own Rep. Wesley Bishop (D – Dist. 99), is clearly an effort to get eligible RSD charters schools (i.e., Type 5 charters) to return to the oversight of the Orleans Parish School Board. Although several charter schools have achieved a School Performance Score (SPS) that would allow them to return to local control, none of them have opted to do so. In explaining their decision to remain in the RSD, many of these schools have stated that a return to local control would entail a change in their designation from Type 5 to Type 3, meaning they would lose their status as a “local education agency” (LEA) and the higher level of funding that goes with it. HB 661 defines a new “Type 3B” charter designation that would allow RSD charters that return to local control to retain their status as an LEA. The bill would also open the door for the dismantling of RSD charters’ citywide open-enrollment requirements by allowing Type 3B schools to establish designated attendance zones. [Email Rep. Bishop]

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASenate Bill 199: Creates and provides for the Southeast Baton Rouge Community School Board and school system in East Baton Rouge Parish. The description of this bill, authored by the aptly named Sen. White (R – Dist. 6), should actually read: “Creates and carves out an enclave of white privilege from the surrounding majority African American school system of East Baton Rouge Parish.” SB 199 would be a giant step backwards toward educational apartheid in East Baton Rouge. [Email Sen. White]

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