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What’s Hot and What’s Not in the 2020 Legislative Session

By Lisa Moomaw (Tulane University), OPEN Intern

Now that the Louisiana legislative session has resumed despite concerns about COVID-19, the House and Senate are back to hearing and passing bills both related and unrelated to the pandemic. While there is some action being taken to support students dealing with the pandemic, the legislature is also considering harmful bills that will roll back progressive advances for Black children and youth. Read more about what we’re following and why and check out the OPEN Legislative Tracker for info on additional bills!

Bills We Oppose

HB 64 (Dwight, R)

There are laws already in place punishing people not allowed on school premises who endanger or disrupt schools with either fines or jail time. HB 64 extends these laws to students, teachers, and administrators. This will allow student behavior to be criminalized, which contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline, especially for Black and brown children. OPEN believes behavioral issues in kids should be dealt with through school and community culture systems rather than involving law enforcement and criminal courts.

HB 145 (Hodges, R)

Currently, schools have the option of giving the opportunity to students to recite the pledge of allegiance. HB 145 changes this to a requirement. OPEN believes requiring the pledge of allegiance is unnecessary indoctrination.

HB 250 (Hilferty, R)

Hilferty is on a roll this session introducing multiple harmful bills. This bill allows 17-year-olds to be tried as adults for offenses involving a firearm. It rolls back the Raise the Age campaign, which successfully called for 17-year-olds to be tried as juveniles. OPEN believes youth should be tried as such, especially considering that this bill will likely result in more Black and brown youth being sent to prison and for longer.

HB 252 (Hodges, R)

This bill requires K-8th social studies curricula to include “the nation’s Founding Principles,” including “national sovereignty” and “American exceptionalism.” Like Hodges’ other bill, HB 145, OPEN believes this is pushing indoctrination.

HB 261 (DuBuisson, R)

Currently, it is illegal for children under 18 to possess a handgun on their person. HB 261 expands this to say it is illegal for children under 18 to possess a handgun regardless, and that they can be punished for this offense whether or not they have a handgun on their person. While OPEN supports gun control, the specifics of this bill will allow for it to be used as a way to send more Black and brown kids to prison.

HB 466 (Amedée, R) and SB 172 (Mizell, R)

These are different versions of the same bill, which requires students to compete in sports as their biological sex. Its goal is simple: keep transgender kids out of sports. OPEN opposes this transphobic initiative.

HB 823 (Hilferty, R)

This bill creates a new category of childcare facility, called the early learning home provider. Unfortunately, the standards it creates do not follow best practices for caring for small children in family home settings.

SB 298 (Jackson, D)

This bill removes the value-added model for assessing school probability. However, it would allow charter boards to determine their own accountability standards, which means the community can’t effectively hold their schools accountable.

Bills We Support

HB 870 (Garofalo, R)

This bill extends the deadline for submission of ACT or SAT scores in order to qualify for a TOPS scholarship for students graduating from high school in 2020. Low-income people are some of the people most impacted by COVID-19, but also those who most need TOPS. It’s important to give them accommodations in the wake of the pandemic.

HB 855 (Duplessis, D)

Incarcerated people are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. HB 855 calls for certain nonviolent offenders to be released when there is a state emergency, which would allow these people to be protected. This is important to education equity because it will protect incarcerated youth and the children and relatives of incarcerated people from trauma.

SB 481 (Fields, D)

This bill suspends requirements for schools including standardized testing and minimum instructional hours so that they can close due to COVID-19. It also extends TOPS deadlines and calls for school boards to address the impacts of the pandemic. Some of this is administrative, but the clauses about addressing impacts are important to make sure students get what they need.

SCR 22 (Fields, D)

This bill suspends statewide testing requirements, which helps accommodate students considering the effects of COVID-19.

SCR 23 (Fields, D)

This bill suspends certain laws in order to allow schools to close in the pandemic, which protects students from being put in a dangerous environment where they could be exposed to COVID-19.

SCR 52 (Fields, D)

This bill requests that public postsecondary education boards adopt holistic and flexible admissions policies that consider the disruptions of COVID-19. Not everyone is being impacted by the pandemic in the same way, so it’s important for institutions to acknowledge that.

We’re currently following up on the bills that we’re watching to learn more about their status. Keep posted for that information!

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