However, BRAC saw gains in other key areas such as new economic development incentives and small business issues. A full recap of BRAC’s efforts during the session can be found at www.brac.org/legreview.
“Our team was active and productive from the session’s beginning to end,” stated Adam Knapp, BRAC’s President and CEO. “We put the majority of our focus on public education reform, and it paid strong dividends.
BRAC’s full evaluation of the session shows the breadth of education reform, as well as the range of other reforms and new initiatives that succeeded this session.
From education to transit reform, new economic development incentives to small business health insurance transparency, the session showed that meaningful, pro-business change is possible.
BRAC extends a thank you to the Capital Area Legislative Delegation for their hard work and leadership.”
K-12 Education Reform
• Increasing teacher performance and accountability: (Act 1, formerly House Bill 974 by Representative Steve Carter) Act 1 raises the bar for teacher performance and accountability by requiring that effectiveness be used as the primary criterion for making personnel decisions in public education systems around the state. The measure builds upon the implementation of the value added teacher and school leader assessment model passed in 2011. The bill also provides for the delegation of reduction-in-force decisions from the local school board to the superintendent, with a requirement that these policies be based solely upon demand, performance, and effectiveness.
• Ensuring that every child in Louisiana has access to a quality public education: (Act 2, formerly House Bill 976 by Representative Steve Carter) This measure provides a choice for parents seeking better education opportunities for their children through the enactment of a parent trigger provision, creation of local charter school authorizers, development of a course choice program, and the establishment of a statewide voucher program.
• Parent Trigger: Act 2 allows a school to be removed from the jurisdiction of the city, parish, or other local public school board or other public entity and be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Recovery School District (RSD) through a parent petition process. This process requires signatures from parents or legal guardians representing at least a majority of students attending the school requesting the transfer and also requires that the school requesting the transfer be graded a “D” or “F” for three consecutive years pursuant to the Louisiana School and District Accountability System.
• Local Charter Authorizer: The measure provides an alternative path to the development of charter schools through the creation of local charter authorizers. To be eligible, an entity must meet the several requirements.
• Per Course Providers: These provisions establish a Course Choice Program in an effort to provide students with access to match the type and format of education that best meets their individual students. The program includes courses in person and online or virtual and is open to students attending public, private, and parochial schools and for those students participating in a home study program. The bill authorizes business and industry to serve as course providers offering work in a specialized field in an effort to build a skilled, trained workforce that can meet the demands of our state’s diversified economy.
• Vouchers: The Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Act, also known as the voucher program, expands access to vouchers statewide for students entering kindergarten and for those students in grades K-12 who attend “C”, “D”, or “F” schools. Students are eligible to participate in the program if they reside in Louisiana and if their family income does not exceed 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
• Ensuring Early Childhood Accountability: (Act 3, formerly Senate Bill 581 by Senator Conrad Appel)
The Louisiana Early Childhood Accountability Act tasks the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) with creating a comprehensive and integrated network to manage publicly-funded early childhood programs with the goal of promoting kindergarten readiness.
• Establishing Term Limits for Local School Boards: (House Bill 292 by Representative Steve Pugh) The establishment of term limits for school boards will align these education leaders with term-limit requirements for members of the Legislature and BESE. The legislation does not apply to the RSD, the governing authorities of charter schools, or school districts that have previously enacted term limits.
Repealing Tenure Rights for School Bus Drivers: (House Bill 293 by Representative Joe Harrison) Louisiana is the only state in the union that provided job protection for school bus drivers. This bill repeals tenure for school bus drivers hired July 1, 2012 or later.
• Public Transit Reform
Transforming the Governance Structure of CATS: (House Bill 865 by Representative Regina Barrow)
In early 2011, East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden created the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on mass transit, which included business leaders appointed by BRAC. The BRC was formed to develop a comprehensive list of recommendations to support the sustainability of transit in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Through analysis of best practices in partnership with national transportation and transit experts, the BRC recommended changes to the governance structure of Capital Area Transit System (CATS) by removing the veto authority of the East Baton Rouge Metro Council over major operational decisions in order to diminish political influence over tough management decisions.
The BRC found that previous CATS budgets were rejected by the East Baton Rouge Metro Council in part because of unpopular fare increases and route reductions that were necessary to balance the agency’s budget.
The new governance change was supported by a majority of the members of the East Baton Rouge Metro Council as a means of improving the decision-making process.
In order to elevate the standard for board member eligibility, the new legislation also creates a criteria standard for service of board members and a nominating structure for recommending potential transit board members to the East Baton Rouge Metro Council.
About the Baton Rouge Area Chamber
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) leads economic development in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area, the Creative Capital of the South.
Serving as the voice of the business community, BRAC’s investors includes more than 1,200 organizations whose employees represent over a third of the workforce.