Welcome to OPEN’s 2018 Education Legislative Recap! This is a broad overview of this year’s education policy developments, highlighting the most important outcomes by topic area. Want more details? Check out the full list on the OPEN blog.
A JUST START
Children as young as five years old walking into kindergarten already behind is not a symbol of “disadvantage” or “risk,” but an injustice. Public policy’s fundamental purpose is to correct injustice. So how did this year shake out for early systemic investments?
• New early childhood Commission and pilot programming: HB676 (Hilferty) creates the the Early Childhood Care and Education Commission, which is tasked with studying and creating a vision for the state’s early child care and education system. The bill also makes allowances for pilot programs for community early childhood care and education networks.
• A (temporary) defeat for early childcare funding: HB513 (Carter) would have drawn $10 million from the Unclaimed Property Leverage Fund to provide Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) services to 5200 children currently on the waiting list. The Senate Finance Committee decided to hold the bill, which means it is effectively gone for this session. However, Chairman Eric Lafleur indicated that $10 million would be put “below the line” to the current version of the state’s budget. What this means is the $10 million is not currently funded, but if sufficient revenue is raised during the Special Legislative Session that will begin at the end of this month, it could be. In other words, the advocacy continues!
• New school readiness assessments for Deaf children: HB199 (P. Smith) creates a special task force to develop the framework for assessing children who are deaf or hard of hearing to determine language skills and ensure kindergarten readiness.
MORE THAN SCHOOL
OPEN believes that the values, vision and resilience of community education — by and from the people, designed to correct past injustice — will propel our current public education system forward. So how did this year’s policy shape and codify community values in public schools?
• Parental rights strengthened and rejuvenated: HB 387 (Edmonds) revises the Parents’ Bill of Rights for Public Schools, giving parents legally-defined access to free copies of their child’s records, school calendars, and any attendance or uniform fees. SB89 (Bishop) requires parent representation on each charter school governing or management board.
• Education accountability: HB509 (G. Carter) requires school boards to make presentations at public meetings relative to plans for schools in need of academic improvement. (Want to see more about accountability? Check out the materials from the 2018 Policy Breakfast, particularly OPSB’s Charter School Accountability Framework presentation.)
• Letter grade contexts: SB152 (Morrish) requires that any school performance scores received after a change to the evaluation methods also include the score or grade the school would have received had the change not been implemented.
• A half-victory on restorative justice: Despite valiant efforts from advocates and supporters on behalf of Friends and Families of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC), Senate Bill 465 (Bishop), which would have added restorative justice and positive behavior interventions as alternative methods to be used in lieu of suspension, did not pass. However, FFLIC successfully lobbied to become a part of the Advisory Council on Student Behavior and Discipline, and is moving the work along with an added focus on racial equity and student rights.
OTHER TOPIC AREAS IN LOUISIANA EDUCATION
• Sex education: Louisiana’s public schools will continue to teach abstinence-first sex education, for now. The Education committee in Louisiana’s House of Representatives deferred two bills (HB499 and HB554) that would have mandated progressive sex education, including STD awareness and contraceptive education, in public schools.
• Bullying: SB303 (Milkovich) would have allowed “A school employee who witnesses an incident of bullying [to] take all steps deemed necessary to stop the behavior, including reasonable force, physical restraint, or removal of the offending student from the school grounds.” Giving adults the unilateral power to get kids arrested? Absolutely not. Great job for all of you who came out to say NO to criminalizing students! But stay alert — SB303 isn’t dead, just deferred.
• Guns on campus: HB271 (R. Garofalo) would have allowed teachers to carry firearms onto school campuses, but was voted down in a House committee.
• Immunization information: HB74 (Davis), now Act 262, mandates that schools provide parents with information on where and how to obtain the flu vaccine for students.
• Lunch-shaming still legal: The Senate Education Committee rejected HB284 (Smith), a measure which would have prohibited schools from publicly identifying or scolding students with unpaid lunch bills, requiring them to do chores to pay for meals, or withholding school privileges from them. Opponents said the measure would leave schools and districts unfairly saddled with debt.