Public school changes not top priority of Legislature
Most of the bills up for consideration by the House and Senate education committees this session call for changes. But they aren’t as drastic as ones filed in years past. Part of the reason appears to be a willingness to let the major reforms play out and monitor the results.
It’s quite the difference from 2012, when Gov. Bobby Jindal called for an overhaul of public schools. The proposals sparked debate, and the results included a statewide voucher system and more rigorous teacher tenure standards. Debate over Common Core also took center stage over the last few years.
But the state’s budget problems appear to be dominating other legislation this session, including debates on public schools. Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, told The Advocate that the “budget is consuming everybody’s energy.”
The Legislature has roughly three weeks left to go in the regular session, with final adjournment set for June 8. House Speaker Taylor Barras said that next week is the last one to move House bills to the Senate.
The House Ways and Means Committee still has plenty of tax-related bills left to consider, also forcing legislation on public schools to take a back seat. Right now, a compromise between Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposals and the GOP lawmakers in the House doesn’t appear likely.
Some of the major education bills being considered include a ban on paddling in public schools and changes to teacher evaluations. Other bills have already been defeated in committee, including legislation that would have limited access to vouchers for schools graded a C, D or F.
Even House Education Committee Chairwoman Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, acknowledged that “people are more focused on fiscal bills.”
Linda Johnson, a former Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member, said Jindal, along with former Govs. Kathleen Blanco and Mike Foster, “truly had an education agenda.” She said that has been difficult to determine under Edwards’ tenure.
Obviously, Edwards has a lot to deal with during this session. But he shouldn’t forget about addressing education. Louisiana lawmakers have plenty of issues — namely the budget and tax reform — to tackle before the session wraps up. They have spent plenty of time debating, and enacting, sweeping reforms to education.
As with any major change, it takes time to find out whether they are effective. Maybe we should let those policies stay in place for several years and see if they work and let lawmakers focus on getting Louisiana on a sound financial footing.