Monday, June 25, 2012

Legislative Update for June 25, 2012

The Cowen Institute is pleased to share with you the latest in K-12 education policy at the local, state, and federal levels. Don't forget to like us on Facebook and to follow us on Twitter.

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The Latest from OPSB

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The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) approved a resolution that states their interest in working with the Recovery School District (RSD) to create a true city-wide enrollment program. Click here for a Cowen Institute blog on the matter. Click here for coverage in The Times-Picayune.

The board passed a resolution that authorizes and directs its general council and financial administrators to leverage the district's financing and to enter into a cooperative agreement with the RSD to pursue additional funds for the School Facilities Master Plan, mostly in the form of new market tax credits. There are number of steps both organizations must take before any such credits are awarded, but additional funds could amount to anywhere from $40-100 million. Click here for the resolution.

OPSB deferred consideration of a resolution to join labor groups and other school districts in litigation challenging the constitutionality of the statewide voucher program as created by Act 2 of the 2012 Louisiana Regular Legislative Session. The focus of the litigation is the constitutionality of using appropriations originally established to fund public schools to fund private educational services.

The board deferred adoption of amendments to their current Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) policy, which state and local agencies establish to increase the access small and minority businesses have to large publicly funded capital projects. Members of the board were concerned that the proposed language would result in increased legal challenges. Click here for coverage in The Times-Picayune.

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Civil District Judge Issues Ruling on Post-Katrina School Firings

A New Orleans civil district judge ruled that the approximately 7,500 school employee firings by the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) and the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) after Hurricane Katrina were contract violations. The OPSB and LDOE will likely appeal to a higher court, but could be liable for lost wages and benefits, estimated to be hundreds of millions of dollars.

Click here for coverage in The Times-Picayune.

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The Latest from BESE

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The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) amended existing policies and added new policies to align with recently passed education legislation and the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver from the U.S. Department of Education. The changes to align with recent legislation are outlined here and the changes to align with the waiver are outlined here.

The approved rules for the statewide scholarship (voucher) program do not cover accountability. The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), not the board, will have final say on such rules, which are mandated to be ready by August 1st. Click here for a Times-Picayune editorial on the subject.

In making policy changes to align with the ESEA waiver, the board and the LDOE revealed previously undefined school performance score bonuses for elementary, middle, and high schools. Elementary and middle schools will receive a bonus if 30 percent of their low-performing subgroup students meet their predicted growth, as determined by the state’s value-added model. High schools can receive a bonus if 30 percent of their low-performing subgroup students meet expectations as predicted by the ACT test series (EXPLORE and PLAN).

Click here for coverage of the meeting in The Times-Picayune.

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Audit of RSD Master Plan Oversight Released

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The Legislative Auditor released an audit of the Recovery School District’s (RSD) management of capital projects under the School Facilities Master Plan. The audit found issues with change orders, methods of concrete construction, and reports from project architects and engineers.

Click here for coverage by WWL Eyewitness News.

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LDOE Forms State Education Plan Advisory Committees

The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) formed three advisory committees made up of teachers, principals, and superintendents that will meet quarterly this year and offer ongoing input on the implementation of the state education plan, Louisiana Believes. In the near future the LDOE will form another committee made up of parents and community members.

Click here for a list of the advisory committee members.

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USDOE Released Guidance on Promoting Diversity in Schools

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The U.S. Department of Education released guidance on the voluntary use of race to achieve diversity and avoid racial isolation in elementary and secondary schools. The report includes options for districts that employ systems of choice and open enrollment.

Click here for the full report.

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The Governor’s Recent Education-Related Legislative Actions

Governor Jindal signed all of the education bills pending his signature into law except one. He vetoed H.B. 1106, which would have created tax rebates (capped at $10 million) for donations to public elementary and secondary schools. The Governor’s veto message explains that there is no provision for the bill in the budget. Click here for coverage in The Times-Picayune.

The following are highlights of the bills recently signed into law:

HB 1, now Act 13, provides for the ordinary operating expenses of state government for Fiscal Year 2012-2013 and includes cuts to K-12 education spending. The Governor vetoed 10 line items in the bill as passed by the legislature.

HB 61, now Act 483, creates a cash balance (defined contribution) retirement plan for certain members of the Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System (LASERS) and all members of the Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana (TRSL) and the Louisiana School Employees' Retirement System (LSERS) (K-12 teachers have the option to switch to the cash balance plan).

SB 156, now Act 629, requires the Department of Public Safety and Corrections to develop academic plans for committed children.

SB 200 and 211, now Act 733 and Act 734 respectively, require child care and school facilities to survey for lead and to disclose the findings.

SB 309, now Act 643, repeals the law that requires schools to create improvement plans.

SB 563, now Act 797, puts a constitutional amendment on the November 6, 2012 ballot to create the Southeast Baton Rouge Community School Board and school system in East Baton Rouge Parish.

SB 759, now Act 858, creates a health care system for K-12 students with diabetes.

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Updated Lists of Education Bills

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June 4th was the last day of Louisiana’s 2012 regular legislative session, for which education has been a focus. All pending action from the Governor has been taken. Click the links below to download our final updated lists of bills and resolutions related to K-12 public education:


Summary All Education-Related Bills
Major Education Bills

For more information on these bills please visit the legislature’s website.

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