The bill in question is HB 98, by Rep. Lance Harris, and it sailed out of the House Education Committee on a 7-4 vote and the House Appropriations Committee on a 17-0 vote. It’s about as close to a money-follows-the-child education bill as we’ve seen, and it’ll come up for a vote on the House floor this afternoon.
The Center Square’s Victor Skinner had a write-up about the bill last week which does a good job describing it…
Legislation to expand school choice in Louisiana for both public and private schools could soon get a floor vote in the House following two recent committee approvals.
House Bill 98, sponsored by Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, would create a Sunshine Scholarship Program to provide education savings accounts equal to the state average per-pupil funding parents can use to send their children to a school of their choice, or for other alternative education options.
HB 98 would also allow parents to enroll their children in the public school of their choice, regardless of performance letter grade of the school, if there’s sufficient capacity. Currently, public school students can only move to another public school if they’re transferring from a school with a performance letter grade of “D” or “F” to one rated “A,” “B,” or “C.”
“I personally believe this bill has the potential to transform the lives of thousands of students here in Louisiana,” Harris told the House Appropriations Committee on Monday.
Harris explained the various benefits of the bill, including improved academic achievement, increased access, increased equality, cost savings, and increased innovation and competition.
“There’s a lot of evidence to suggest the implementation of an educational savings account such as HB98 in Louisiana could save the state money in the long run,” he said.
Harris pointed research on ESAs in Arizona that showed that per-pupil ESAs costs are less than traditional school funding, while also leading to less infrastructure costs for public schools.
At least 13 states have adopted ESA programs, including Arkansas, Mississippi and Florida, which has had its program in place for roughly two decades, he said.
“When they implemented this program they were very low at the bottom of education and now I think they’re at number three in the last article I read,” Harris said of Florida, “and the chairman of education in Florida attributes a lot of that to them doing this new way of thinking when it came to educating the kids in Florida.”
The bill is certain to pass the House. The real question is twofold: first, will it pass with 70 votes out of 105, which is the magic number needed to override a veto (a 70-vote majority is an indication the votes would hold in a veto override session), and second, will it simply just go to die in the Senate?
Last year the Senate did move the money-follows-the-child education funding reform bills, but they died under John Bel Edwards’ veto pen.
That’s going to happen again, obviously, unless the Senate can find 26 votes to indicate an override majority.
But here’s the argument against Harris’ bill, from the Center Square article…
Rep. Barbara Carpenter, D-Baton Rouge, on Monday questioned how HB 98 would impact public school funding, noting that schools will lose state funds for students who transfer to private schools.
Barbara Carpenter isn’t alone in her idiotic misplaced priorities, of course. Here she is upset that school systems which would have to service fewer students would lose money.
So who does she care about? Kids or adults?
A school which spends $12,000 per student per year and has, say, 1,000 students then loses 100 of them and $8,000 per student in funding to private schools. Which as we understand this is a pretty decent approximation of what this bill does. That school probably needs 10 percent fewer teachers and staff, not to mention supplies and other things. It should be less expensive to run.
But Barbara Carpenter is upset that it might lose six or eight percent of its funding.
Because nothing in the public sector is ever allowed to change. It must remain the same, except it has to be bigger and more expensive every year. That’s the Barbara Carpenter mentality.
Forget about whether these entities are worth the money spent on them, which – despite the fact that Louisiana’s schools have actually shown some real improvement over the past couple of years thanks to the good work of Schools Superintendent Cade Brumley and his folks – on balance, traditional government schools in Louisiana haven’t been for a long time.
People in the know will tell you that the improvement made in Louisiana’s schools is directly related to the increased competition they’re facing from the growing homeschooling movement, private schools, charter schools and a host of other alternatives parents in Louisiana have. What Barbara Carpenter is worried about is that the utter failures in the various school systems, like for example the one in East Baton Rouge that she shills for, will get cleaned out as parents who care about their kids’ educations will hit the road and abandon the awful schools.
Which will make the schools better on the whole. Competition does that. It kills the weak and rewards the strong. Everybody knows this, and the vast majority of the people in Louisiana want money-follows-the-child education funding. It’s the future, whether Barbara Carpenter has a clue or not.
But her mindset might prevail a little longer. We’ll find out starting today if a veto override is possible. If it isn’t, then you can bet the will of the public will be served next year, with a much different governor and what’s likely to be an even more conservative legislature.