June 5 Legislative Update

Today concludes the sixth 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:
House Education Committee
Senate Education Committee
School Board Reform Bills
Federal School Construction Funding

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s National Press Club Speech

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

House Education Committee

Last Week
On Tuesday, June 2 the House Committee on Education met to consider sixteen bills and resolutions. The following were reported favorably by the Committee:

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 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. (with amendments)

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

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

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 112 (Downs) – This resolution requests local public school boards to convene public meetings at least twice each year with the appropriate local law enforcement authorities and school personnel to discuss and report on issues relative to school attendance and behavioral problems of students and to formulate local annual action plans to improve student behavior and school attendance.

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. (with amendments)

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

SB 120 (Erdey) – This bill allows the Livingston Parish School Board to create new school districts that overlap the boundaries of existing school districts.

SB 146 (Duplessis) – This bill requires BESE and local school boards to follow the charter school application review process set out by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and to provide an independent evaluation of charter school proposals by a qualified third party. Additionally, it allows charter schools to give preference to siblings submitting applications to enroll and removes the prohibition of support and affiliation with religion or religious organizations. (with amendments)

SCR 9 (Nevers) – This resolution requests city, parish, and other local public school boards to include student representation to such local boards in an advisory, non-voting capacity.

SCR 13 (Broome) – This resolution requests Southern University to establish a plan and recommend policies that support university-private sector partnerships in renewable energy.

SCR 27 (Nevers) – This resolution requests the High School Redesign Commission to study the feasibility of establishing a statewide uniform grading scale for use in all public high schools.

SCR 67 (Duplessis) – This resolution requests BESE to study criteria for considering the renewal of the charter of a failing charter school.

The following were voluntarily deferred by the respective author:

HB 848 (P. Smith) – This bill provides for certain reductions to the Recovery School District’s (RSD) annual appropriation with regard to certain retiree health care costs of a school system in which one or more of its schools has been transferred to the RSD and for allocations of such amount to the prior school system.

SCR 26 (Broome) – This resolution requests BESE to ensure that a comprehensive study is conducted to determine a base per pupil expenditure that is equitable and adequate to provide the quality of education necessary for all students to meet the state’s academic standards and testing requirements.

Next Week
The House Committee on Education will meet on Tuesday, June 9 at 12:00pm to consider the following bills and resolutions:

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).

HCR 41 (J. Smith) – This resolution requests the Louisiana School Board Association to make available to members of public school boards copies of current law relative to reviewing a person’s criminal history prior to hiring.

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 60 (Dixon) – This resolution expresses support for and requests support from the state, the governor, and the Board of Regents for maintaining LSU at Alexandria as a four-year institution.

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

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 167 (Hardy) – This resolution requests the Board of Regents and the Louisiana Student Financial Assistance Commission to study lowering TOPS eligibility requirements.

SB 223 (Claitor) – This bill provides relative to the removal of students from the classroom for certain inappropriate behavior and for parental notification and involvement.

SB 259 (Kostelka) – This bill requires that each major have a corresponding diploma, that the academic major diploma be adopted by BESE and offered by each public school board, that the career major diploma be developed and proposed by each public school board, and that BESE have final approval of each career major and corresponding diploma.

SB 309 (Gray Evans) – This bill provides for health-related fitness assessments to determine physical fitness levels of students in schools.

Senate Education Committee

Last Week
The Senate Committee on Education met on Thursday, June 4 to consider fourteen bills and resolutions. The following were reported favorably:

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 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.

SB 87 (Long) – This bill allows the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to determine the requirements for experience teachers’ participation in the Teacher Assistance and Assessment Program.

HCR 149 (Baldone) – This resolution requests each public school governing authority to develop and implement a comprehensive anti-harassment, intimidation, and bullying program.

HB 187 (P. Smith) – This bill is relative to the creation of Type 3 or Type 4 charter schools by means of converting preexisting public schools. It permits, rather than requires, the approval by members of the faculty and staff of the preexisting school of charter proposals and retains processes and guidelines for obtaining such approvals.

HB 504 (Ligi) – This bill provides term limits for members of the Jefferson Parish School Board.

HB 545 (Ritchie) – This bill requires principals of public schools where a student was enrolled to release the student’s records to a public or nonpublic school (inside or outside Louisiana) where the student is enrolled or seeking enrollment. It requires records to contain information on suspension as well as expulsion.

HB 570 (Hoffmann) – This bill requires that the governing authority at public elementary and secondary schools establish the policies, procedures, and practices concerning electronic communications by an employee at a school to a student at that school. (with amendments)

HB 576 (Johnson) – This bill authorizes the state superintendent of education, with BESE approval, to set certain rates and fees for the Cecil J. Picard Educational and Recreational Center in Bunkie, Louisiana.

HB 602 (LeBas) – This bill allows public school students to carry and self-administer certain medications under certain conditions.

HB 612 (Fannin) – This bill provides for separate high school diplomas for the academic major and the career major. It also provides for required courses in the career major for students in 9th and 10th grades. (with amendments)

HB 686 (Carmody) – This bill requires authorizing entities to engage in an application review process for the creation of a charter school that complies with specified principles and standards. It will also allow for the independent evaluation of a qualified third party. (with amendments)

HB 771 (Hutter) – This bill authorizes Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) to set a uniform tuition amount for all online courses offered by institutions under its jurisdiction. (with amendments)

HB 821 (S. Carter) – This bill requires BESE to require public school boards to allocate and report certain education funding in certain ways. (with amendments)

Next Week
The Senate Committee on Education will meet on Thursday, June 11. The agenda for this meeting has not yet been released.

School Board Reform Bills

Representative Steve Carter’s micromanagement bill for school boards (HB 851) made it to the House floor on Tuesday, June 2, but failed with a vote of 46 yeas and 51 nays. This is the only bill out of a package of four bills introduced by Representative Carter that made it out of committee. To read more about HB 851 and the other three bills in the school board reform package (HB 371, HB 664, HB 808), click here.

Federal School Construction Funds Update

In a recent letter from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to Chief State School Officers, he reviewed opportunities for states and school districts to increase funding for school construction. Specifically, the letter explained Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs), Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCBs), and Build America Bonds (BABs). Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) there is an additional $2.8 billion in QZABs available for 2009 and 2010 with $27,146,000 allocated specifically for Louisiana. Louisiana’s 2008 allocation of QZABs was $7,756,000. There is a total of $22 billion in QSCBs available for 2009 and 2010. Louisiana will receive a $131,622,000 allocation for QSCBs. Four parish school boards will receive a direct allocation, including $39,607,000 for Orleans Parish School Board. Additionally, the Secretary identified the Build America Bonds (BABs) program created through the ARRA.

These programs, along with the Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs), present opportunities for local school boards to increase their funding for the repair, renovation, and construction of school facilities. To read Secretary Duncan’s letter to Chief State School Officers, click here.

The Cowen Institute has prepared brief overviews on each of these funding opportunities. To read more about each one, click below.

Secretary Duncan’s National Press Club Speech

On May 29, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave a speech at the National Press Club to discuss President Obama’s education agenda. He focused on raising standards, turning around our lowest performing schools, and saving $4 billion each year with direct loans. To read excerpts from the speech and watch the video of the speech, click here.

* During the legislative session, the Cowen team provided a summary of the House and Senate resolutions related to education along with an update on “Top 20 Bills to Watch” and a summary of education, school and student related pre-filed bills filed in the legislative session. You can find the final copy of those documents here.

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