BATON ROUGE — Louisiana lawmakers have filed a number of bills that create barriers to parent choice in public education, specifically targeting public charter schools across the state. Despite a recent LSU survey that indicated Louisiana residents’ support for more charter schools, House and Senate legislators have filed a package of anti-charter school bills that attempt to erode parent choice in three ways: by stripping charter school funding, attacking charter school flexibility, and limiting the state’s ability to authorize new charter schools.
“These bills are an orchestrated effort led by supporters of the status quo to preserve their own political control of public education at the expense of the students and families who demand choice in public education,” said Caroline Roemer, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools (LAPCS). “The 80,000 students and teachers who have chosen charter schools ask Governor John Bel Edwards and state legislators to stand with them in support of parental rights to choose the school that best meets the needs of their child.”
Among the bills that threaten charter school funding include:
- SB 149 (Sen. Ryan Gatti, R-Bossier City), which would reduce state and local education funding by 50 percent for virtual schools.
Two House bills seek to place constraints on charter school operations:
- HB 168 (Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge) prescribes what types of teachers charter schools can hire, and
- HB 879 (Rep. Joseph Bouie, D-New Orleans) prevents charter schools from selecting service providers that meet the needs of their students by prohibiting charters from entering into a service contract with a for-profit educational management company.
Finally, a number of bills have been filed to limit charter school authorizers, including:
- SB 170 (Sen. Blade Morrish, R-Jennings) and SB 198 (Gatti), which would prohibit BESE from authorizing charter schools in districts that received higher letter grades. These bills mirror Governor Edwards’ position on charter schools laid out in his legislative agend
“Charter school opponents cite ‘local control’ as the reason for curbing access to charter schools and BESE’s authorization of them, but what they’re actually advocating for is political control by school boards,” said Roemer. “Charter schools by definition are governed by a local, non-profit community board, and charter schools cannot exist without the very real demand of local parents and families in Louisiana. You can’t get more local than that.”
A recent survey conducted by LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs at the Manship School of Mass Communication indicates that charter school support is widespread across the state, with 68 percent of residents favoring opening more charter schools. Among public school parents, that number is even higher, with 72 percent indicating their support of opening new charters.
“Not only are these bill dangerous to the very notion of parent choice in education, they are nothing less than the erosion of parental rights,” said Roemer. “There is nothing more ‘local’ than a parent deciding what is best for their own children. When left without checks and balances, too often schools boards build barriers to more quality educational options for parents. The 80,000 students and teachers being served by charter schools are asking Governor Edwards to stand with parents, not special interest groups, and support school choice.”