June 19 Legislative Update

Today concludes the eighth week of the 2009 Regular Legislative Session of the Louisiana Legislature. The Cowen Institute is pleased to share with you updates from the Senate and House Education Committees, including a recap of the bills that came up this week and information on what is scheduled for next week’s meetings. We will also keep you posted on hot issues affecting education that arise during the session.

This week’s update includes information on the following:
School Facilities Legislation Update
House Education Committee
Senate Education Committee
BESE Meeting
Federal Stimulus Funding

If you would like more information on specific bills, please contact Nash Molpus at nmolpus@tulane.edu.

School Facilities Update

Bills to support public school facilities in Louisiana continue to move through the House and Senate. SB 90, which creates a Louisiana Statewide Education Facilities Authority, was adopted by the Senate on Wednesday, June 17. It will be heard in the House Appropriations on Sunday, June 21.

HB 689, which creates the Louisiana Statewide Education Facilities Fund, was reported favorably by the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, June 16. One Wednesday, June 17, the Senate adopted the bill with an amendment that recreated the entire bill as the Higher Education Restoration Fund. Therefore, HB 689 no longer creates the Louisiana Statewide Education Facilities Fund, as originally intended.

House Education Committee

Last Week: On Tuesday, June 16 the House Committee on Education met to consider eight bills and resolutions. The following were reported favorably:

SB 129 (Dorsey) – This bill requires Louisiana Student Financial Assistance Commission (LASFAC) to adopt guidelines and procedures permitting the commission, for the 2007-2008 academic year and thereafter, to receive and consider an application to return from an out-of-state college or university that is received after the final deadline for such applications, with the same reductions in award eligibility for any awards granted districts.

SB 316 (Nevers) – This bill provides for a comprehensive approach to improve graduation rates and ensure college and career readiness for high school students.

SB 324 (LaFleur) – This bill authorizes school districts under the Evangeline Parish School Board to increase the sales tax, not to exceed one percent.

SCR 17 (Nevers) – This resolution provides for legislative approval of the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) formula for FY 2009-2010 as adopted by BESE on March 12, 2009.

SCR 68 (Adley) – This resolution requests the Louisiana Student Financial Assistance Commission to study the feasibility of weighting grades earned in honors and other advanced courses when calculating grade point averages to determine TOPS eligibility.

SCR 83 (Duplessis) – This resolution urges and requests BESE to adopt a policy relative to appropriate and acceptable administrative overhead costs for which fees may be charged to a charter school by the chartering authority.

The following bill failed to pass out of committee :

HB 571 (Norton) – This bill prohibits corporal punishment in public elementary and secondary schools, beginning with the 2009-2010 school year.

The following resolution was recommitted to House & Governmental Affairs without any committee action:

SCR 48 (Broome) – This resolution creates the Southern University Center for Equitable Development Task Force to study and develop statewide recommendations for local strategies and initiatives to meet the needs of economically depressed communities across the state.

Next Week: There is no scheduled meeting for the week of June 22. An emergency meeting may be scheduled if needed.

Senate Education Committee

Last Week:

On Thursday, June 18 the Senate Committee on Education met to consider seventeen bills and resolutions. The following were reported favorably:

HCR 37 (P. Smith) – This resolution requests city, parish, and other local public school boards to include student representation on such boards in an advisory, nonvoting capacity.

HCR 53 (Hutter) – This resolution requests BESE to develop and implement an age-appropriate unit on hurricane awareness for students in each grade in all local public school systems.

HCR 54 (Hutter) – This resolution requests the Louisiana Department of Education to compile statistics relative to where public school teachers certified in the past 10 years received degrees and report to education committees.

HCR 68 (Dixon) – This resolution requests BESE to study standards it uses to approve alternative education programs as such standards relate to providing sufficient counseling services and security.

HCR 99 (McVea) – This resolution requests the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism to study methods of raising additional revenue through state historic sites.

HCR 101 (Simon) – This resolution requests instruction on principals of Universal Design and Visitability in certain graduate degree programs.

HCR 131 (P. Smith) – This resolution requests BESE to develop and adopt policies relative to options and strategies for schools in danger of state takeover.

HCR 151 (P. Smith) – This resolution requests the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to study the feasibility of returning certain schools transferred to the Recovery School District (RSD) to the local school systems from which they were transferred under certain circumstances.

HCR 164 (P. Smith) – This resolution requests BESE to conduct an in-depth study of the financial burden on local school systems imposed by rising costs of providing retiree health care benefits and to recommend a solution.

HCR 165 (Dixon) – This resolution requests BESE to implement a policy to provide for an alternate method of assessing the overall performances of alternative schools.

HCR 168 (Leger) – This resolution requests BESE to create a task force to study issues relative to charter school funding.

HB 218 (Hardy) – This bill proposes that the governing authority of all secondary and elementary schools, including charter schools, shall adopt and implement policies that provide for the inspection of all fire safety and prevention equipment. It also requires necessary actions taken, in a timely manner, to have equipment in good working order.

HB 223 (Armes) – This bill is relative to noncomplex health procedures that are performed by certain school employees and serves to allow tracheotomy suctioning to be performed by those employees.

HB 495 (Dixon) – This bill exempts a school that meets specified criteria from being removed from the jurisdiction of the local school board and transferred to the Recovery School District (RSD).

HB 519 (Leger) – This bill sets a minimum on the fee that can be negotiated between a school chartering authority and a charter school to cover administrative costs of the chartering authority. It will be applicable to all years after the first year and the minimum amount will be 2% of the per pupil funding amount received by the school.

HB 721 (Johnson) – This bill is relative to the funding of special education and related services for students living in private residential facilities who are neither Louisiana residents nor in the permanent custody of a Louisiana state agency.

HB 872 (Downs) – This bill authorizes LSU, Southern, and University of Louisiana boards of supervisors to impose specified tuition and attendance fee increases for certain students attending institutions under their management and supervision.

Next Week:

The Senate Committee on Education will meet on Thursday, June 25 upon adjournment in the John J. Hainkel, Jr. Room. The agenda for this meeting is not yet posted.

State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

On Wednesday, June 17, the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) passed the Recovery School District budget.

Federal Stimulus Funding

Over the past month, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has given two of four planned major policy speeches concerning the four key areas of school reform that states must make assurances on in order to receive stimulus funding for education. The four assurances are:

Adopting rigorous standards that prepare students for success in college and the workforce;

Recruiting and retaining effective teachers, especially in classrooms where they’re needed most;

Turning around low-performing schools; and

Building data systems to track student achievement and teacher effectiveness.

States must report their progress toward these four goals in order to receive funds through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF). Thus far, thirty-two states’ applications have been approved for the receipt of SFSF. Louisiana is not one of those thirty-two.

Race to the Top

In his speech on June 14 at the 2009 Governors Education Symposium, the Secretary focused on the “Race to the Top” Fund. Race to the Top is a competitive grant program that will reward states that have made the most progress toward the standards and assessment, data systems, teacher quality, and school support goals addressed in the above assurances. In this speech, the Secretary identified $350 million of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund to support states in the creation of rigorous assessments linked to the internationally benchmarked common standards being developed by states which help students compete and succeed in the global market place.

The remaining $4 billion in Race to the Top competitive grants will be made in two rounds. The timeline laid out by the Secretary for these grants is as follows:

Late July 2009 – The U.S. Department of Education will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register. This notice will invite public comment for 30 days on the proposed grant application and the evaluation criteria.

October 2009 – The U.S. Department of Education will publish the notice inviting applications in the Federal Register.

December 2009 – Phase 1 grant applications will be due.

March 2010 – Phase 1 grant winners will be announced and grants awarded.

June 2010 – Phase 2 grant applications will be due.

September 2010 – Phase 2 grant winners will be announced and grants awarded.

In addition to the $4.35 billion in discretionary Race to the Top funds, there is also $650 million under the Investing in What Works and Innovation program. These funds will be used to reward local educational agencies or nonprofits with strong track records of results in closing the achievement gap. Guidelines and applications for these funds will be posted in the Federal Register during the month of July 2009.

Statewide Data Systems

The U.S. Department of Education will announce the grant competition for the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems Program on Wednesday, June 24. There is $250 million available in this program designed to aid state educational agencies in developing and implementing longitudinal data systems. These grants are purely competitive. The last day for the Department to receive the grant applications from states is Thursday, September 17, 2009. The Department will award the grants by Monday, November 30, 2009.

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