After more than a decade of trying to make public schools more accountable, heated disputes still flare up.

The latest one focused on plans to start giving about 1,300 public schools traditional letter grades.

Backers call the grades a no-brainer.

How better to let students, parents and other people know how schools are faring?

After all, students have dealt with the sometimes unforgiving nature of letter grades for generations.

Yet, the state Senate Education Committee wrestled with the issue for a few hours this past week.

They did so because two lawmakers ? state Sens. Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge, and Jonathan Perry, R-Abbeville ? call the idea of giving letter grades to public schools unfair.

Perry?s bill was the subject of the hearing. Dorsey sponsored a nearly identical measure.

The state is supposed to start issuing the grades this fall. Perry and Dorsey wanted that delayed for at least two years.

More significantly, they also wanted a task force to recommend changes in a grading system approved in December by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Dorsey said she worried about the damage to student psyches when schools get a low grade.

Joyce Haynes, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, labeled the grading system divisive and unfair.

Nolton Senegal, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, told the committee the grading system needed more vetting.

And all this took place in a state where one in three public school students ? about 230,000 ? performs below grade level.

Louisiana consistently ranks at or near the bottom of lists that rank student achievement.

The grades, which stem from a 2010 state law, are designed to improve schools by shining a light on them with grades that everyone can understand.

The current setup assigns schools stars and labels. Critics contend that means little to taxpayers, and hides problems that demand attention.

The real fear from superintendents and others is their schools are about to be saddled with grades of ?D? and ?F? that are hard to explain to parents.

That was the worry a decade ago when the state started requiring fourth-graders and eighth-graders to repeat the grade if they failed to pass a test of math and English skills called LEAP.

The initial failure rate set off alarms. It sparked tears, protests and demands for delay. Yet it also paved the way for improved student performance, and a far better passage rate today.

Ironically, the grading system that still draws fire today breezed through the Legislature in 2010.

It began sparking arguments when state officials started spelling out exactly how schools would earn an ?A,? and why they could be headed for a ?D? or an ?F.?

Perry?s bill failed in the Senate committee, with one ?yes? vote and four opposed.

Dorsey was the only supporter. The death of Perry?s bill essentially killed her proposal, too.

Opponents include Gov. Bobby Jindal?s office, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and Chas Roemer, a BESE member who helped craft the grading system.

One of the committee opponents of the legislation was Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville. The grading system needs time, he said.

?It is about accountability,? Donahue said. ?We need to give this system a chance to work.?