19 May 2008

Committee and floor action, May 19: SB 108, HB 321, HB 350

SB 106 was back, to the Senate Finance Committee regarding reporting by nongovernmental organizations wishing to receive state funds. Author Sen. Blade Morrish briefly outlined some changes he addressed, including making it easier to bring in “late” submissions by a two-thirds vote of the committee. But Sens. John Alario and Edwin Murray were skeptical that this would allow members to fully exert their abilities to dump these items into the budget. Morrish stressed information had to be provided for all members to see. With these amendments, it was adopted without objection.

This actually happened after a reconsideration to insert a previous technical amendment. Then after that, another reconsideration had to voted upon because of an error in the amendments, so that was undone, new amendments put on and the matter again voted into approval.

HB 321 would increase the number of charter schools allowed in the state (exclusive of the Recovery School District’s) from 42 to 70. Rep. Don Trahan pointed out that these were public schools and that 70 was a good number because then pretty much every district could have one if they wanted it. He said the desire of districts to experiment with the greater flexibility should be indulged, and typically were used to help at-risk schools and had to mirror the at-risk population in composition of students.

Rep. Jean Doerge asked what were the financial implications. Trahan said most of them had to be approved by either a local school board or BESE or both, so they would be aware of any financial implications. Rep. Richard Burford asked about attendance zones; Trahan said in most cases they were the ones drawn by the school board.

The bill passed 91-0.

HB 350 by Rep. Walt Leger would allow the Recovery School District to contract with for-profit education providers. He said it already was being done in Orleans but by contract, and by having them deal directly with the RSD they could more efficiently operate the most difficult schools.

The bill passed 99-0.

TUESDAY: SB 807 is scheduled to be heard by the House Commerce Committee.

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