Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Education "Reform" Passes Louisiana State Senate

A bill empowering vouchers has passed the Louisiana State Senate, as has HB974, which would weaken local control of schools and teacher tenure.  HB974 passed 23-16 with an amendment, so the Louisiana House will have to vote on concurrence.

It's interesting to note that a coalition of conservatives, moderates, and leftists voted against HB974 in the Senate.  Indeed, seven Republicans crossed over to vote against the measure:
Dale Erdey (R-Livingston), Ronnie Johns (R-Lake Charles), Bob Kostelka (R-Monroe), Fred Mills (R-Parks), Blade Morrish (R-Jennings), Jonathan Perry (R-Kaplan) and John Smith (R-Leesville)
 Meanwhile, six Democrats crossed over to vote in favor of this bill weakening local control.

A big takeaway from this: education "reform" in Louisiana has become bipartisan.  For both the House and Senate votes on these issues, Democrats played a crucial role.  Without their votes, these bills would have failed.

Another big takeaway: we'll see how serious the teachers unions are about defending the interests of Louisiana teachers and how serious these unions are about merely being footsoldiers for Louisiana Democrats.  Will they spend much time talking about the balance-tipping Democrats in the legislature?  They would seem to have the most leverage over these members, so it will be interesting to see whether the unions will use it.

A final vote seems to await in the Louisiana House.  If Democrats stay united there, a coalition of conventional conservatives and Democrats might stop the bill.  But the "reform" train has a lot of momentum at this point.

UPDATE 4/5: Earlier today, the House passed both the voucher and anti-tenure/anti-local control bills, sending them to Governor Bobby Jindal for his signature.  Interestingly, three Republicans and one independent swung to vote against the amended HB974 after supporting it originally, making the vote closer this time around: numerous Republicans opposed these measures weakening local control of public schools.  However, the faction of pro-"reform" Democrats stood strong and gave the bill the majority it needed.  A unified Democratic opposition, combined with skeptical conservatives, would have caused this bill to fail.

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