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The Baton Rouge Bottom Line: Reform Marches On

With the final adjournment of the eight-week political marathon that was the 2013 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature yesterday, it’s time to step back and assess the session’s impact our state’s education policies.

First, the good news…

Thankfully, the most regressive education-related bills filed by lawmakers either failed or were rendered harmless through amendment. Among the casualties were proposals that sought to usurp BESE’s authority over school and district accountability measures, textbook selection, and the appointment of the State Superintendent of Education. Moreover, legislative attempts to rollback Louisiana’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and undermine the autonomy of charter schools were also unsuccessful. Finally, just as the session was drawing to a close, Sen. Mack “Bodi” White’s effort to further balkanize the public school system in East Baton Rouge fell short of the votes it needed for approval in the House, sounding the death knell for this divisive proposal for the second year in a row.

However, it wasn’t all roses in Baton Rouge

While the 2013 Regular Session did not result in any major defeats for education reform, not all of BESE/LDOE’s initiatives emerged unscathed. The biggest setback of course was the Senate Education Committee’s rejection of BESE’s 2013-14 MFP formula, which sought to establish a more equitable and effective method for allocating special education funding. Because the Louisiana Supreme Court’s May 7th decision declared the 2012-13 MFP plan unconstitutional, the rejection means that BESE must instead revert to the 2011-12 formula for this coming school year, which Superintendent White claims will cost the state $3.5 billion.

And finally, the big takeaway…

We need to be vocal advocates for education reform and hold lawmakers accountable. The biggest threat to emerge this session came not in the form of legislation, but in the equivocation of lawmakers on the very reform measures they once supported. No case better exemplifies this ambivalence than House Bill 160, a proposal that sought to delay the full implementation of the state’s teacher evaluation system. Thanks, in part, to a concerted lobbying/manipulation effort by the state’s two main teachers unions, H.B. 160 moved virtually unimpeded through the House, where it passed unanimously, 102-0 (thankfully, it was D.O.A. in the Senate). Among those casting votes in favor of the bill were dozens of state representatives who, until recently, threw their support behind reforms aimed at improving our public schools.

One lesson to be drawn from the complete volte-face by these lawmakers is not to underestimate the effectiveness of the misinformation campaign being waged by reform opponents, which no doubt had its intended effect on the perceptions of many politicians. While the education reform movement in Louisiana has established a unprecedented track-record of success over the past decade, we cannot rest on our laurels. In response to the steady erosion of their power in recent years, the anti-reform camp has become more vociferous and better coordinated in conveying their distorted message to politicians and the broader public. Reformers can no longer simply roll their eyes and shrug off these attacks; we need to step-up our political engagement and send a clear message to our elected officials that we cannot turn back on the progress we’ve made in public education.


Bill Description



Provides for parent petitions relative to the transfer of certain schools from the Recovery School District back to the local school system
  • Amended in committee to exclude Type 5 charter schools, thereby making the bill a non-issue, since the RSD is focused on chartering schools, not running them
  • PASSED the House, 99 to 0; PASSED Senate, 37 to 0; but House rejected Senate amendments;
  • Both House and Senate ADOPTED the conference committee report
  • SENT to Gov. Jindal for signature


Delays implementation of certain teacher evaluation program requirements relative to termination proceedings and restricts use of evaluation results
  • PASSED the House, 102 to 0, but DIED in the the Senate Education Committee on 5/22/13
  • Tacked onto HB 129 same day it was killed in the Senate, but HB 129 DIED as the session adjourned prior to its hearing in the Senate
  • More about this bill here


Prohibits certain public high school students from being administered tests pursuant to La. Educational Assessment Program or the La. school and district accountability system with certain exceptions
  • PASSED by the House, 99 to 0; PASSED by Senate, 39 to 0
  • SENT to Gov. Jindal for signature


Provides relative to the assignment of performance-based letter grades to public schools and school districts
  • This bill, which seeks to politicize the school and district accountability, PASSED the House, 70-28, but DIED in the Senate Education Committee on 5/22/13


Subjects charter schools to the same State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education rules and regulations as traditional public schools with respect to employment eligibility requirements for teachers and other school employees
  • Unfortunately for Rep. Bel Edwards (but thankfully for public education in Louisiana) this bill DIED in committee


Provides relative to the eligibility of nationally certified school teachers, counselors, and psychologists for specific salary adjustments
  • PASSED by Senate 39 to 0; PASSED by House w/ Senate amendments, 99 to 0;
  • SENT to Gov. Jindal for signature


Provides relative to charter schools
  • Never got out of committee


Provides for the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program
  • Never got out of committee


Provides relative to performance-based scores and letter grades assigned to public schools and school districts
  • DIED in committee on 5/8


Requires the State Bd. of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop and adopt rules and regulations providing for parental choice relative to state standardized testing for students with disabilities
  • PASSED by the House, 81-14
  • DIED while awaiting consideration by Senate Education Committee


Provides relative to salary supplements for public school educational diagnosticians
  • PASSED the House, 97 to 0; PASSED by Senate, 38-0
  • SENT to Gov. Jindal for signature


Provides relative to the process for discharging, demoting, or disciplining a permanent public school teacher
  • DIED in committee on 5/21


Establishes and provides for the Special Education Scholarship Program
  • Rep. Nancy Landry dropped the bill in the face of overwhelming opposition to it


Requires the State Bd. 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
  • Never got out of committee


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
  • This proposal has been drastically altered and is now HB 724
  • HB 724 simply provides that students are free to gather to engage in prayer before or after school hours, which is redundant since numerous court decisions have already made clear this is permissible


Creates and provides for Type 3B charter schools and provides for charter school funding
  • PASSED by House w/ Senate amendments, 89-0; PASSED by Senate, 38-0
  • SENT to Gov. Jindal for signature
  • See background on this bill here


Provides relative to the use of seclusion and physical restraint to address the behavior of certain students
  • PASSED House, 97-0; PASSED Senate, 34-0
  • SIGNED into law by Gov. Jindal’s as Act 1


Requests that the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education study the feasibility and advisability of pursuing a residential charter school model in La.
  • ADOPTED by House and Senate Education Committee
  • SENT to the Secretary of State


Creates and provides for the Southeast Baton Rouge Community School Board and school system in East Baton Rouge Parish.
  • PASSED by both the House and Senate, but DEAD with the failure of SB 73
  • A similar bill, sponsored by Sen. White, also died last year on the floor of the house


Provides for empowered community schools.
  • AmendedPASSED by the Senate, 22-16
  • DIED in the House Education Committee


Constitutional Amendment to prohibit unfunded mandates on political subdivisions or public school systems, with limited exceptions.
  • Withdrawn prior to introduction


Constitutional amendment to require the statewide election of the state superintendent of education.


Constitutional amendment to grant the Southeast Baton Rouge community school system in East Baton Rouge Parish the same authority granted parishes relative to MFP funding and raising revenue for schools.
  • DIED in the House after backers of the bill were unable to garner the 70 votes needed to pass the constitutional amendment
  • Part of a package with SB 199


Provides relative to tenure for teachers and certain other school employees.
  • Never got out of committee


Requires certain local public school boards to obtain BESE approval before making certain changes in the status of a failing school.


Provides legislative approval of the MFP formula for FY 2013-2014 as adopted by BESE on March 8, 2013.
  • DEFERRED by Senate Education Committee, likely killing the new MFP formula
  • Will force BESE to use the 2011-12 MFP formula, costing the state $30 million


Requests the Department of Education to plan and conduct the Louisiana Teacher Empowerment, Learning and Leading Survey (La TELLS) Initiative.
  • ADOPTED by the Senate and House Education Committees
  • Signed by Speaker of the House and President of the Senate


Requests BESE and the Department of Education to withdraw from the Common Core State Standards Initiative and cease all activities related to implementation of such standards.
  • DIED in the Senate, thanks to the efforts of Sen. Conrad Appel


Written by Peter Cook

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.

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