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St. Charles School Board hears legislative update

By Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / June 10, 1998

LULING – Bills ranging from the instruction of school board members to exit examinations for seniors are among those being discussed by the Louisiana Legislature, according to a report given to the St. Charles ParishSchool Board by Government Liaison Cookie Gomez Wednesday night.

Although there weren’t quite as many bills filed as there was during the 1997 session, there were still a number pertaining to education introduced to the Legislature in its special session that ended April 17 and its current regular session scheduled to end Wednesday.

Bills of interest to the school district in the regular session include the General Appropriations bill (House Bill 1), the bill Gomez said drives the state of Louisiana. Included in the bill is the Minimum Foundation Programthat funds education in the state to a tune of over $2 billion and includes the Home Harmless clause so vital to the school district. As of Wednesdaythe bill had been passed by the House and the Senate and was on its way back to the House with amendments.

One bill that caught the attention of the board was House Concurrent Resolution 61, introduced by Rep. Louis “Woody” Jenkins. The bill directsschool boards to allow students who have failed the high school exit exam to participate in graduation activities. The bill is headed for the Senatefloor, and Gomez said it should be resolved by Wednesday.

Superintendent Rodney Lafon urged the public to get involved in defeating the bill.

“Call you senators and tell them how much you would hate to have students who have not graduated be on the stage for graduation,” Lafon said.

Another bill the administration and board is closely tracking is Senate Bill 37 by Sen. John Hainkel. The bill would provide that property taxesgenerated by nuclear plants would be shared throughout the state and would affect revenue generated by the Waterford III plant in Taft. Gomezsaid the district will continue to track the bill closely.

Another bill relating to taxes was Senate Bill 39 introduced by Sen. MaxMalone. The bill would provide that local ad valorem tax elections be heldon the same date as the congressional primary elections.

Seven bills of interest to the St. Charles Parish School System wereintroduced during the special session.

House Bill 71, introduced by Rep. Francis Thompson, requires school boardmembers, if they have not already, to receive a minimum of six hours of instruction on school law, the powers, responsibilities and duties of the school board and in educational trends, research and policy. It is up toeach school superintendent with the consent of the school board what method of instruction will be used. The bill applies to all new schoolboard members beginning in 1999.

House Bill 102, introduced by Rep. Charles DeWitt, would permit city andschool districts to provide a course on character training in kindergarten through grade 12. The curriculum would focus on the development ofcharacter traits such as honesty, fairness and respect for others. The billalso requires the state superintendent of education to provide an annual progress report on the implementation and effectiveness of the proposed law to the House and Senate Education committees and the governor.

House Bill 116, introduced by Rep. Charles McDonald, would retain thepresent law pertaining to the LEAP test but would change the grades that the test is taken in from grades three, five, seven and the high school grades to grades three, five, six, seven and nine.

McDonald also introduced House Bill 118 pertaining to teacher selection and explaining the role the superintendent plays in the selection and the information given by to the school board.

“We do it already and have for as long as I can recalled,” Gomez said of the components of the bill.

A third bill introduced by McDonald, House Bill 119, pertains to the length of the school day. This bill depends on the status of the GeneralAppropriations bill.

In the Senate, Sen. Noble Ellington introduced Senate Bill 105 whichincludes a retiree who participated in the DROP program to be reemployed as a classroom teacher under the teacher shortage provisions without suspension of retirement benefits.

One bill that was of interest because it failed was House Bill 117 introduced by Rep. McDonald. The bill pertained to the preschool at-riskprograms and was opposed by the St. Charles Parish School System. Gomezsaid that although the bill was tabled, he was sure it will not go away.

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