Reversing its earlier stance, a House committee Tuesday morning endorsed a bill backed by Gov. John Bel Edwards to eliminate one way charter schools can be launched.

The House Education Committee approved the bill 7-5.

The measure next faces action on the House floor.

Last month the same panel rejected a similar bill, with six in favor and nine opposed.

The current law, which emerged from a sweeping overhaul of public schools in 2012, allows state-approved local groups to authorize charter schools.

Charter schools are public schools that are supposed to offer innovative teaching methods, and allow parents another option if they are unhappy with their traditional schools.

But critics noted that Louisiana already has about 140 charter schools authorized by state and local boards and another pathway is not needed.

“There is already a process in place,” said Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, which backed the bill.

Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, who often is aligned with groups that back sweeping changes in public schools, questioned why the local charter authorizer law is needed if none have been authorized since 2012.

“If this was so great I am frustrated that no one has used it,” said Broadwater, a member of the committee.

The bill, much like the 2012 measure that authorized local charter authorizers, put traditional public school groups on one side and school overhaul advocates on the other.

Opponents of the bill argued that local charter authorizers remain a needed option for families.

Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, said about 26,000 students attend D and F rated public schools in the Baton Rouge area.

“We hope you keep this tool in place for the future,” Knapp told the panel.

Caroline Roemer, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, opposed the bill.

“Louisiana is getting choice in public education right,” Roemer said. “Please stay the course.”

Warren Drake, superintendent of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, backed the bill by Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, R-Jennings.

Drake compared the statute to allowing out-of-state non profit groups to enact laws for Louisiana.

“Think about that for a minute,” he said.

Check back later with The Advocate for more details.

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