A bill aimed at returning formerly but no longer failing public schools from the Recovery School District to the Orleans Parish School Board won narrow approval Wednesday in the Louisiana House Education Committee. The vote was 9-8.

The measure, House Bill 166, next faces action in the full House.

The RSD was set up to oversee public schools rated by state education officials as academic failures.

More than 100 schools in New Orleans were initially overseen by the RSD, starting shortly after Hurricane Katrina.

That oversight lasts for at least five years.

The RSD now includes 59 schools statewide — mostly in New Orleans — and those schools are overwhelmingly charters.

Under current rules, schools that emerge from “failed” status can opt to return to the Orleans Parish School Board, but that has seldom happened.

State Rep. Joe Bouie, D-New Orleans, the sponsor of the bill, wants to require that the schools be put back under OPSB governance within one year after they are no longer deemed failing.

“All this bill does is realign what the original spirit of the Recovery School District was,” Bouie told the committee.

“The reason they will go back is because they are not failing,” he said.

Backers also said the bill is needed because RSD supporters are vague on exactly what needs to happen for schools to return to the local school board.

Opponents of the legislation said officials of RSD schools are often reluctant to return to the Orleans Parish School Board because that board oversaw some of the lowest-performing public schools in the state for years.

RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard said that, of 36 schools eligible to return to the OPSB, only one chose to do so recently.

“The policy that is in place is working,” he said.

He also said 88 percent of RSD schools are rated as not failing, up from 35 percent in 2008.

“Think about the lives that have been positively impacted,” Dobard said.

Opponents of the bill included the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools and Democrats for Education Reform-Louisiana.

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