For the second consecutive year, the key parts of Gov. John Bel Edwards' public schools agenda have died with little fanfare.
A plan to revamp the way public school teachers are evaluated — House Bill 532 — has not gotten a hearing in the House Education Committee with just over two weeks left in the session. It is expected to be turned into a study resolution, which means officials will review the issue after the session for possible action in the future.
The proposal never gained political traction, even from teacher unions and other longtime allies of the governor.
"The bottom line is I wasn't sure how much support we were going to have in committee," state Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, who the governor asked to sponsor the bill, said Monday.
Earlier this month, the other key bill in Edwards' modest agenda — Senate Bill 13 — was trounced in the Senate Education Committee, even though it was sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Blade Morrish, R-Jennings.
With little fanfare, Gov. John Bel Edwards' proposal to limit access to vouchers was rejecte…
That bill, which would have limited access to vouchers, sparked "no" votes from five of the committee's seven members, and little debate.
The only other bills in Edwards' public schools agenda are making progress, but they are noncontroversial proposals.
One would ban the paddling of public school students with disabilities. It is House Bill 79 and passed the House 96-0.
On the eve of a larger vote, the Louisiana House approved a bill Tuesday night that would ba…
The other one, House Bill 20, is aimed at softening the impact of the August flood on public schools. It, too, won House approval 96-0.
Both measures are awaiting action in the Senate Education Committee, and both are likely to win final approval.
Gov. John Bel Edwards spelled out his public school legislative priorities Tuesday, includin…
The defeats this year on bigger bills mirror what happened in 2016, when the then newly elected governor watched his education agenda fizzle, mostly in the House and Senate education committees.
Democrat Edwards, a former member of the House Education Committee, is up against Republican-controlled education panels in both chambers. That means his bills, which are usually aligned with the goals of traditional public school groups, are regularly heard by panels dominated by lawmakers who generally favor vouchers, charter schools and other steps to overhaul public schools.
Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, a member of the Senate panel that voted against Edwards' voucher bill, said there is growing support in Louisiana and nationally for state education dollars following students to the school of their choice. Such a move could lead to sweeping changes in public schools.
"And if you see that break on the national level, where dollars follow the child, I think you are going to see states line up and start doing it," White said Monday.
"They (schools) are going to have to compete in the future, like it or not," he said.
Shane Riddle, legislative and political director of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said public school issues, including those pushed by the governor, have suffered from a lack of attention.
"I just think there is so much focus on the budget, and trying to get things worked out on revenues and expenditures, that I think education has kind of taken a back seat this year," he said Monday.
Edwards and legislative leaders have been grappling for months with Louisiana's latest budget crisis, with another special session likely.
The governor's bill to revamp teacher evaluations even caught some supporters by surprise.
Louisiana's 2010 overhaul of annual teacher evaluations was touted as a way to provide a mea…
Under current rules, at least 35 percent of the annual reviews have to be linked to the growth of student achievement.
Edwards' bill would allow local educators to use academic gains — called the Value Added Model — as they see fit.
The proposal sparked expected criticism from a wide range of public school overhaul advocates, including charges that doing so would break a 2016 deal.
What was unusual was that officials of both Riddle's group and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers said they, too, had concerns, including the fact the change could pave the way for 69 different rating systems statewide. Hoffmann, a former Ouachita Parish educator who sponsored the original evaluation law, said the issue is already under review by the state Department of Education.
Shauna Sanford, communications director for Edwards, said many educators firmly believe principals know best how to utilize data on academic gains when they are rating teachers, and the governor agrees.
"With HB532 now a study resolution, Gov. Edwards is hopeful that this model will be thoroughly studied to determine its effectiveness in evaluating teachers," Sanford said in an email response to questions.
While public schools face a freeze in basic state aid, the governor's plan to spend an additional $18 million for dual enrollment and high-needs students breezed through the House Education Committee last week.
That $3.7 billion plan, House Concurrent Resolution 7, next faces action in the full House.