Despite objections from top state education officials, a House panel approved a bill Wednesday to require Senate confirmation for additional top officials of the state Department of Education.
Senate Bill 80 won approval in the House Education Committee and faces action before the full House.
The proposal has won Senate approval.
The issue in dispute is one provision in an otherwise non-controversial bill.
The legislation would put into state law a recent reorganization of the department. The disputed section would require Senate confirmation for two more department leaders.
One is held by Erin Bendily, who is chief of department support and a former aide to Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Bendily is paid $140,000 per year.
The other is held by Rayne Martin, who is chief of innovation.
Martin is also paid $140,000 annually.
Backers said the Senate oversight would ensure department efficiency.
Critics said it would amount to Senate micromanagement of state education issues.
State Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, the sponsor of the bill, said the Senate scrutiny makes sense.
Nevers, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he might feel different “if we had one of the best education systems in the U.S.
“I want to look at who they are,” Nevers said, a reference to top department officials who would be reviewed.
“The Senate has a process to do that,” he said.
The acting state superintendent of education, Ollie Tyler, and the president of the state’s top school board, Penny Dastugue, criticized the additional confirmations.
“If we start confirming everybody in the department where will we be?” Tyler asked the committee.
Tyler said the department hires experts with top-flight credentials to deliver on department goals to improve student achievement.
Dastugue said after the meeting that the additional confirmations would represent a “far reach” into department operations by the Senate.
Stafford Palmieri, education policy advisor for Jindal, also criticized the proposed Senate scrutiny.
The two jobs in question, Palmieri said, represent some of the most important reforms done by the department.
“We don’t think it is proper to put that reform work in jeopardy” by requiring two more officials to undergo Senate review, she said.
As approved by the Senate the bill also required Senate confirmation for the superintendent of the Recovery School District, called RSD.
But that requirement was removed Wednesday in the House committee.
Department leaders said the RSD superintendent is already answerable to the state superintendent.
The RSD oversees troubled public schools in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and elsewhere.
Tyler asked the committee for a one-week delay to try to work out other differences.
Nevers declined to go along. The committee then approved the bill without objection.