While the talk of the Capitol these days may be about the Legislature’s override of the governor’s veto of the new congressional districts maps, there is a lot of substantive legislation that’s been introduced this session, particularly in the area of education.
This isn’t exactly an “education” session, but there are a lot of significant education bills that lawmakers will be considering this year, and many of them are pretty good. Here are some of the highlights of what CABL will be watching.
Early Childhood Education
We are still assessing the impacts of legislation that would require all schools that provide kindergarten to offer pre-k classes for three and four-year-olds (SB 47). We certainly applaud all efforts to expand early learning opportunities, but we must also ensure that we do it in the most effective and cost-efficient ways. That includes legislation we support that expands an existing program to give local communities the authority to levy a 1 mill property tax that can be used to support early education (HB 460).
Education Savings Accounts
These are education programs enacted in several states that allow state funds to flow into an account for parents to pay for approved education expenses such as private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, and services for special needs. CABL supports these programs for military and foster families and students who have been denied school choice options (HB 33); students with special needs (HB 194, HB 227); young students not reading on grade level (SB 203); and students who have been victims of bullying at their current school (HB 452).
CABL is also supporting another choice initiative that would allow high school students to enroll in classes that lead to a postsecondary credential or an apprenticeship in another school if it’s not available at the school they attend (SB 50).
We are concerned about bills that would impose obstacles to creating new charter schools or renewing existing ones by creating unnecessary bureaucratic burdens. (HB 451, SB 299).
CABL is generally wary of laws that tell teachers what to teach outside of the framework of state academic standards. We’ll be watching some of those. We do hope to work on other bills that will provide transparency around curriculum, instructional materials, and school activities if they don’t create an undue burden on schools and teachers (HB 75, HB 369, HB 453).
CABL is excited about promising efforts to expand access to computer science classes in schools across Louisiana (SB 190, SB 191).
CABL has always been supportive of efforts to simplify the path to college and careers. One of those ways is through dual enrollment where students are able to take college-level courses while still in high school. We’re promoting legislation get more information into the hands of students and parents for accessing early college studies (HB 333) and creating a microgrant program that students can use to pay for dual enrollment courses (HB 616).
Along those lines we are also supporting bills that will help policy makers evaluate these kinds of programs to both gauge and improve their effectiveness (HB 470, SB 229). The same goes for legislation that will make it easier for students to transfer their credits between postsecondary institutions and ensure those credits can count toward their degree (HB 231, SB 261).
As always, there are a number of education bills introduced this year that will generate controversy and some that need to be defeated. To some degree, that’s the nature of the education debate. But this session has the potential to enact some significant policies that create real opportunities for our students to succeed in school and later in life.
Every forward step is important.