The anchors of La. Gov. Bobby Jindal's proposed overhaul of primary and secondary education in Louisiana are set for Senate committee approval. This would clear the way for the measures to reach the governor's desk as early as next week.
Sen. Conrad Appel, who is carrying Jindal's schools policies in the upper chamber, said he is satisfied with House Bills 974 and 976 as they emerged from the House last week. The Metairie Republican and Senate Education Committee chairman said he believes House floor amendments settle concerns over which students would qualify for state-paid private school tuition vouchers and whether existing private schools would be held accountable for the test scores of voucher recipients.
Another Jindal supporter on Appel's committee, Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, said, "I don't expect any substantive amendments" and possibly none at all.
Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, said he has no plans to bring amendments. "It would be futile ... and unfair to my colleagues," he said, citing the committee's lengthy debate earlier this session on Appel's version of the same two proposals. LaFleur was the only member of Appel's committee to vote against Jindal's plans to limit teacher tenure; shift personnel authority from school boards to superintendents; expand charter schools and authorize nonstate entities to issue charters; and establish a statewide program to pay private school tuition for low-income students.
The Republicans' nods of approval -- and LaFleur's demurring -- telegraph the strategy that several lawmakers say comes directly from the administration: Jindal wants the Senate to approve the proposals as-is, so they go straight to his desk without another round of debate in the House.