The push to curb the growth of charter schools suffered another setback Thursday.
The state Senate Education Committee, without objection, voted to shelve legislation that would ban Louisiana’s top school board from authorizing charter schools rejected by local boards in most districts.
The vote is a bad omen for a similar bill backed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, with committee action delayed Thursday on that measure.
The vote came one day after the House Education Committee rejected three bills to restrict charter schools and shelved three others, including several backed by the governor.
Under current rules, charter school advocates can appeal to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education when local boards reject their applications.
The measure, Senate Bill 198, would ban BESE from doing so when the local boards are located in districts rated A, B or C, which make up nearly 90 percent of districts statewide.
Sen. Ryan Gatti, R-Bossier City, sponsor of the bill, said educators and students in school systems, which would be protected from BESE overrides, “are doing a good job, and they are working with all the kids.
“They are passing schools; they are doing everything they are asked to do,” Gatti said.
Opponents said the move would cripple parental choice because well-performing school districts include pockets of problems.
Even in Louisiana’s A and B districts, there are 124 D and F schools, said Stephanie Desselle, who follows public school issues for the Council for a Better Louisiana.
“It is OK to have competition,” Desselle said. “I ask you to please defeat this bill.”
Charter schools, which are public schools run by non-govermental boards, are supposed to offer innovative classrooms without the red tape common in traditional public schools.
About 74,000 students attend 139 of the schools, mostly in New Orleans.
Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, backed the legislation and said charter schools were set up to help at-risk students.
The issue, Richard said, is whether officials in districts doing well can continue to make key decisions.
BESE President Jim Garvey, a Metairie attorney, opposed Gatti’s bill.
“Parents should have a choice, even in A and B districts,” Garvey said.
Edwards backs the proposal that was delayed — Senate Bill 170.
That plan, by Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Morrish, R-Jennings, would prevent BESE charter school overrides in districts rated A or B instead of Gatti’s A, B or C.
When it will get a Senate committee vote is unclear, and charter school advocates have vowed to oppose it too.
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