Capitol Views by Maginnis: Teachers crowd Capitol for education debate
The matter at hand today was the governor's lead bill in his education package, but the first issue and votes of the House Education Committee were directed at the several thousand teachers and school employees in red shirts filling the hearing room, the overflow room, the corridors and the Capitol steps. That four school districts, including that of East Baton Rouge, canceled classes because of the high number of teachers taking personal and sick leave prompted a motion by Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, to have those testifying first state if they are taking a sick or personal day off. "A lot of my constituents are concerned," said Landry, whose Lafayette Parish schools closed for the day. "This is an atrocity," stated Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, in a heated early debate that ended with the motion passing, 10-8, mostly along party lines. Starting with Gov. Bobby Jindal, who called HB 976 "the most important bill of the session," equal time was given to a procession of proponents and opponents of the 43-page bill. "This is a systematic dismantling of public education," said a schoolteacher in opposition. From there, speakers divided on the merits of expanding charter schools, setting up new charter-school authorizers and providing vouchers for private school tuition and online course fees. Separate bills deal with tenure, granting more power on personnel matters to superintendents and principals, and early childhood education. By rules set down by Chairman Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, author of the bill, committee members listened through five hours of testimony from organization representatives and individuals without asking questions. Yet one opponent noted, "It seems your minds are already made up." And another said, "I live in the real world, and I know this bill is going to pass." It hadn't as of the deadline for today's report.
(John Maginnis will publish a daily update throughout the legislative session on Daily Report PM. The report is also available to LaPolitics Weekly subscribers on the Subscribers Only page at LaPolitics.com. Registration is available on the homepage.)
Louisiana Public Broadcasting is providing a daily video update featuring highlights of the session, which you can see beginning at 6 p.m. here.
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