Education bills head to Jindal's desk

Education bills head to Jindal's desk

The House signed off on two major education bills in the governor's agenda today, which were amended more than changed at their core by the Senate, and have sent them to the governor's desk.

House Bill 974 by Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, to overhaul teacher tenure rules and to give more power to superintendents instead of school boards, was concurred in by the House, 60-43.

HB 976 by Carter, which would enable the expansion of charter schools and provide scholarships for public school students to attend private schools, also passed, 60-42.

Carter declined to take questions from members after explaining the Senate's amendments.
Opponents of the bills recognized the votes were not there to stop the bills, but they took the last opportunity to speak out against the measures. Besides Carter, no supporters spoke for the bill.

Criticizing how many substantial changes were bundled into two bills, Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, said, "The Easter baskets we are delivering to the children, not all the eggs are edible, some are rotten."

He noted that two main education bills were among the last to be filed and the first to be heard in committee. Putting its slight mark on the tenure bill, the Senate's most meaningful amendment would provide a second evaluation in the rare instance when a teacher rated “highly effective” on the portion based on student progress in standardized tests but failed in the evaluation portion.

On the school choice bill, 11 amendments were accepted without objection by the sponsor, Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie. But all 23 amendments by opponents were voted down or withdrawn.

In the House, one Republican opponent of the bills, Rep. Rogers Pope, R-Livingston, pointed to the outside forces and agendas behind the legislation.

"This is a national agenda to do away with public education as we know it," he said.

Predicting that problems with the new policies will develop at the local level, Rep. Andy Anders, D-Ferriday, looked ahead, saying, "Let’s be just as fast to come together before this whole thing crashes to the ground and fix it before that happens."

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