Louisiana BAEO Legislative Update

The 2014 Louisiana legislative session has come to an end. Over the past few months, the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) has advocated for high quality educational options and transformational education reform priorities on behalf of low-income and working class Black families. We strive to keep you informed of important legislative decisions being made that impact our children and seek to empower you with opportunities to advocate on behalf of our children.

BAEO's policy priorities focus on supporting parent choice policies and programs, supporting high academic standards such as the Common Core State Standards, advocating for strong school accountability and transparent data collection, teacher effectiveness, and governance reform. Below, we have outlined legislative decisions made around these policy priorities that are important for you to know.

HB1 - State Budget (funding for Scholarship Program)
HB1 comprises the state's annual general operating budget. Funding for the Louisiana Scholarship Program is contained within the state's general operating budget. The proposed budget contained $46M for the Louisiana Scholarship Program. This budget amount will provide scholarships for approximately 8,000 students through the program. Our primary focus was to ensure that the funding for the program was not removed or altered during the legislative session. We are happy that upon final passage HB1 included $46M for the Louisiana Scholarship Program.

HB701 - Vouchers/Louisiana Scholarship Program
Currently students who attend public schools with a letter grade of C, D, or F or who will be entering Kindergarten and meet income requirements of less than 250% of federal poverty guidelines are eligible to apply for the Louisiana Scholarship program. This bill would have no longer allowed students attending public schools with a letter grade of 'C' from participating in the program. BAEO is pleased that this bill did not pass as it would have diminished options for parents of low-income children.

HB702 - Vouchers/Louisiana Scholarship Program
This bill would have required students entering Kindergarten to be zoned for a school with a letter grade of C, D, or F. HB702 did not pass. BAEO is pleased that this bill was unsuccessful as it would have diminished options for parents of low-income children.

HB268 - Vouchers/Louisiana Scholarship Program
This bill would require the Louisiana Department of Education to develop and implement an accountability system for nonpublic schools that participate in the Louisiana Scholarship Program that is comparable to and contains the same components, requirements, and criteria as the school and district accountability system for public schools, including but not limited to requirements for high stakes testing, assignment of letter grades to schools, and publishing and reporting of accountability results. The law would further require participating nonpublic schools to comply with the accountability system. HB268 did not pass.

HB269 - Vouchers/Louisiana Scholarship Program
This bill would require that schools participating in the Louisiana Scholarship Program account for all scholarship funds separately from other funds in a manner prescribed by the legislative auditor that allows thorough auditing of the receipt and expenditure of scholarship funds. HB269 did not pass.

HB379 - Common Core
This bill essentially was a means to prevent the continued implementation and adoption of Common Core State Standards in Louisiana. The bill gives local public school boards the option to not implement the state standards if they develop and implement curriculum standards for required subjects that meet or exceed the rigor of the state standards. There were several similar bills proposed during the legislative session. Thankfully, HB379 did not pass.

HB953 - Common Core
This bill further affirms the support and implementation of Common Core and related testing in Louisiana. The bill delays any related consequences associated with state testing with regards to both school performance and teacher evaluations until the 2016-17 school year. HB935 has passed and is awaiting the signature of the Governor.

HB423 - Letter Grades
This bill would create a temporary cessation of the letter grade component of the school and district accountability system. HB423 did not pass. BAEO is pleased that this bill was unsuccessful as it would have adversely impacted eligibility rules for the Louisiana Scholarship Program and slowed efforts to improve performance of public schools.

HB703 - Charter Schools
Currently a group seeking to establish a charter school may apply to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), if their charter school application is denied by the local school board. This bill would no longer allow an applicant to apply to BESE if their application was denied by the local school board of a district with a letter grade of A, B, or C. BAEO is pleased that this bill did not pass.

SB61 - Public School Choice
This bill would allow the parent or other legal guardian of any student attending a school with a D or F letter grade to transfer their child to a public school with a letter grade of A, B, or C (with approval from the receiving district), without regard to residence, school system geographic boundaries, or attendance zones. SB61 has passed and is awaiting the signature of the Governor. BAEO is pleased that this bill will be signed into law as it creates more options for children, particular those who don't have the means to relocated to communities with higher performing schools.

If you have any questions on these bills or what they mean for you and your children, please do not hesitate to contact us. It is our goal to engage you in our advocacy work and to be a resource for you. In the coming weeks, we will host several legislative debriefings to update our members on both the legislative sessions and other educational developments in Louisiana. We will send out additional communications regarding the times and locations of these meetings.

Please stay connected with Louisiana BAEO to learn how we can work together to ensure our children have equal access to high quality educational options! Follow us on Twitter @labaeo or like us on Facebook.

Sincerely,

Eric B. Lewis
Louisiana BAEO, State Director
eric@baeo.org