Louisiana Education Legislative Update
During the Louisiana legislative session, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) issues a weekly legislative digest of education-related legislation. (Archived digests can be found here.)
These digests are excellent resources for following education legislation throughout the legislative session.
In this post, I would like to offer some highlights from the May 29, 2015 LFT legislative digest and add a bit to it. (The complete document can be read here: LFT Legis Digest 05-29-15.)
I added links for each of the bills mentioned In the LFT excerpt below. The links include comprehensive information on each bill. (Note that this search engine allows one to track any bill nationwide: LegiScan Search Engine)
House Approves $3.7 Billion MFP
The House of Representatives approved public education’s $3.7 billion Minimum Foundation Program formula without opposition, but questions linger about its fate in upcoming Senate hearings.
The House version of the formula in HCR 18 by Rep. Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge) includes a scaled-back $36 million inflation factor. That is just half of what it would take to provide a 2.75% increase, which was considered a customary practice prior to the Jindal administration. In six of the seven previous Jindal-era budgets, per-pupil funding in the MFP remained flat.
LFT President Steve Monaghan was one of those who argued for a full 2.75% increase in the MFP this year. But after HCR 18 was approved by the House Education Committee during the week, Monaghan said that it would be difficult to get more in a year that began with lawmakers facing a $1.6 billion deficit.
In total, the MFP includes about $85 million over last year’s formula. Nearly half of that is due to an increase in the number of students expected in public schools next year, and $8 million is in the MFP to bump spending on students with special needs and for those in dual enrollment college courses and career education programs.
If the MFP survives the session intact, it will increase the base per-pupil funding from $3,961 to $4,051. Lawmakers can either accept or reject the formula, but may not change it.
The governor’s original budget proposal did not include an increase in the MFP. As budget hearings begin in the Senate, there are big questions about whether or not legislators can pass a balanced budget and at the same time obey Jindal’s requirement for a revenue-neutral spending plan.
Next week, the Senate Finance Committee will consider 11 money-raising bills that have been passed by the House. Unless those increases can be offset by other spending cuts or tax expenditures, the Legislature’s plan may not meet with Jindal’s approval.
Common Core bill seems to face smooth sailing
With Governor Bobby Jindal now apparently on board, a three-bill compromise on the volatile Common Core issue seems likely to be approved by the legislature.
A third bill, SB 43 by Sen. Conrad Appel, was okayed this week by the House Education Committee after sailing through the Senate.
SB 43 guarantees that any changes to the state curriculum adhere to the Administrative Procedures Act, a legal process ensuring transparency and public input. Changes would then have to be vetted by the joint House and Senate Education Committee and submitted to the governor for an up-or-down decision.
HB 542 says that no more than 49.9 percent of questions on next year’s tests can come from the Partnership for the Assessment or Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) blueprint. It also prohibits the state from contracting with PARCC to provide the state tests. HB 373 directs how the state education board can overhaul current curriculum standards.
Gov. Jindal, who originally supported Common Core but changed his position to bitter opposition, released a statement in support for the compromise.
“We are supportive of this compromise now that the Superintendent and BESE have listened to the concerns of parents, legislators and the administration about the make-up of the standards review commission. The next step will be to elect leaders who are committed to getting rid of Common Core,” said the statement.
Return to Work bill passes
A bill that would make it easier for retired teachers and paraprofessionals to return to work after retirement without losing benefits has been approved by both Houses of the Legislature.
SB 20 by Sen. Gerald Long (R-Natchitoches) awaits Gov. Jindal’s signature before becoming law.
Non-cognitive testing bill progresses
A bill that would bill that prohibit standardized testing of students’ non-cognitive skills was approved by the House and moves to the Senate Education Committee.
HB 245 by Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) is part of the anti-Common Core wave of bills introduced this year. It basically says that standardized tests may not ask students what they think or feel about questions.
Bill ties private school deduction to tax credits and tax repeal
A complicated set of bills described by capitol observers as a “bizarre shell game” is an example of maneuvers lawmakers are making as they try to balance a budget while honoring Governor Bobby Jindal’s commandment that any result be revenue neutral.
SB 93 by Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton) would do away with the $25 tax credit for non-public school students if the parents are already taking the up to $5,000 deduction of their private school tuition. Because removing the tax credit would be construed as raising taxes by Gov. Jindal, offsets are required to make the removal of the tax credit revenue neutral.
SB 284 would create the Student Assessment for Valuable Education (SAVE) Act. It would allow a student who enrolls in a public college to apply for a tax credit which would go to the institution, not the student. It is unclear where funding for the tax credit would come from. It passed the Senate and will be heard by the House Ways and Means Committee on June 1.
HB 828 would repeal the corporate franchise tax. It was passed by the House on a 67-34 vote.
One more try for contracts bill
For the fourth time in as many years, Rep. Dee Richard (No Party- Thibodaux) and Treasurer John Kennedy are attempting to rein in the cost of consulting service contracts.
A version of the bill was actually passed by the Legislature last year, but was vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose Division of Administration oversees as many as 1,700 contracts costing the state over $2 billion.
The twist on this year’s legislation is that savings from the bill would go to higher education. If Rep. Richard’s HB 30 is enacted, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee would review any consulting contract valued at $40,000 or more. Money saved by rejecting contracts would flow to the proposed Higher Education Financing Fund.
HB 30 was approved by the House Appropriations Committee, and is slated for floor debate on June 1.
And also from the LFT Digest: The schedule for the week of June 1st, 2015. (I bolded and added links for bills that might be of particular interest. However, any of the bills below may be tracked using the LegiScan Search Engine.):
The House Appropriations Committee will debate SB 249 by Sen. Rick Ward (R-Port Allen), which establishes a new voucher scheme called the School Choice Loan Fund. LFT opposes the bill.
LFT supports SB 260 by Sen. Sharon Broome, which reauthorizes the Office of Group Benefits.
House Ways and Means takes up SB 284 by Sen. Jack Donohue, the SAVE act (see above).
The Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee will debate HB 2, the capital outlay budget. It contains a list of projects over 179 pages long, to be funded by money that has yet to be sourced.
The Senate Retirement Committee will consider HB 42 by Rep. Sam Jones (D-Franklin), the retiree COLA (cost of living adjustment) bill.
The House will convene at 1:00 P.M.to consider HCR81 (Thierry – Taskforce on Summer Hunger); HCR 126 (Carter – BESE rules on teacher prep programs); HCR136 (W. Bishop – dual enrollment for homeschool kids); HB30 (Richard – Contract review/HE Fin. Fund money shift); HB80 (Carmody – Better Highways Higher Education Fund creation); HB562 (Havard – Rev. Est. mineral money shift to UAL); HB70 (Leger – EIC)
Tuesday, June 2:
The House Education Committee will consider HCR 174 by Rep. Helena Moreno (D-New Orleans), the early childhood funding model; HCR 182 by Rep. Wesley Bishop (D-New Orleans), asking BESE to dedicate space for home schooled students; and SB 58 by Sen. Conrad Appel, the Deaf Child Bill of Rights.
The House and Governmental Affairs Committee will consider HB 348 by Rep. Marcus Hunter (D-Monroe), the early voting openness bill; and SB 31 by Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans), which would survey risky behavior by New Orleans students. LFT supports both bills.
The House will convene at 1:00 P.M. to consider HCR130 (Price – L-SERS/LSBA Audit); HB518 (Stokes – removes limitations on taxes in non-fiscal sessions); SB52 (Reauthorization of DOE); SB 129 (Nevers – allows school districts to take over failing schools of other districts).
Wednesday, June 3:
The House will convene at 1:00 P.M. to consider HB256 (Pope – Interlocal risk management); SB184 (F. Thompson – School food service small procurement); SB 267 (Claitor – Charter schools and exceptional students)
Thursday, June 4:
The House will convene at 1:00 P.M. to consider HB485 (H. Burns – Veteran Friendly Campuses).
Before concluding this post, let me add info on one more bill to this list, HB 333, Provides exceptions in the GRAD Act relative to remedial education course offerings by certain public universities.
The GRAD Act of 2010 is starving Louisiana regional higher ed institutions of students by forcing them to compete with flagship universities for the same students while shutting many Louisiana students out of higher ed in Louisiana. HB 333 would allow regional institutions to admit students who require a single remedial course. This means that regional higher ed institutions will once again have a “discrete market,” or students suited specifically to their institutions. In short, the discrete market for Louisiana flagship universities would be students requiring no remedial coursework; regional institutions would cater to students requiring a single remedial course (i.e., English or math), and community college would be available to students requiring remediation in more than one subject (i.e., English and math).
On May 20, 2015, HB 333 passed the House. As of May 21, 2015, it has been referred to the Senate Committee on Education.