2021 Legislative Issues – K-12 Education

This year’s legislative session starts in April, and CABL will be working with our RESET Louisiana partners PAR and the Committee of 100 on a full legislative agenda. Prior to the session, we are highlighting some of the issues we will be focusing on. This week we look at K-12 education.

There may not be a lot of legislation this session dealing with public education. That’s for two reasons. One is that this is a “fiscal” session and legislators are limited in the number of bills they can introduce on non-fiscal matters. The other is that the education priorities CABL, RESET, and other reform-minded groups are focusing on deal more with policy than enacting new laws.

That said, there are some issues we feel very strongly about and will be targeting in the weeks and months ahead, both at the Legislature and in other venues such as the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

  1. New accountability component in grades K-2.

We have accountability when it comes to child care, early childhood education, and in grades 3-12. But we need something similar in grades K-2 to bolster efforts to improve student achievement and increase teacher effectiveness. Age-appropriate assessments and observations will allow for earlier and more effective interventions to ensure more students are performing at grade-level upon entering third grade. 

  1. Strengthen the focus on early literacy.

In recent years, the reading proficiency of young children, which had been improving, has now begun to plateau and even decline. We will support policies at BESE that promote effective teaching methods to boost early literacy in grades K-3. These grades represent the foundational years in teaching children how to read. Evidence shows that students who lack strong reading skills by the end of third grade frequently struggle throughout school. 

  1. Maintain end-of-year assessments.

Last year, because of the pandemic, the state suspended end-of-year testing. With school campuses shut down, that made sense. But now some are pushing to suspend testing for another year. It is critical, particularly at this time, to have an accurate picture of student and school performance even if certain “consequences” of the accountability program are temporarily suspended.

  1. Ensure every student has access to opportunities to earn meaningful postsecondary credits while still in high school.

More students than ever are earning college credits and credentials while still in high school, but too often they do not lead to a quality degree or job. RESET will support efforts to create a coordinated framework for dual enrollment and other postsecondary opportunities to ensure more students graduate high school with apprenticeships, associate degrees, credits, and credentials that lead to quality jobs tied to workforce needs.

Of course, there are other things we need to do in terms of public education. Chief among them are addressing any learning loss that has occurred as the result of the disruption in the school year and expanding student access to reliable Internet connectivity.

The Department of Education has announced new opportunities for districts to enhance their tutoring efforts for kids that have fallen behind, and many districts say helping students catch up is a top priority. On the broadband front, federal dollars are available that could assist in expanding Internet access.

But the other items in our agenda represent foundational things we must do to understand where our children stand in a year of unprecedented struggles and set them up to succeed in school and beyond.

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