The first and least controversial of Gov. Bobby Jindal's education proposals cleared the Louisiana Senate this morning, as the upper chamber voted unanimously to impose a new statewide regulatory structure on pre-kindergarten programs.
Senate Bill 581, sponsored by Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, now moves to the House. In general, the bill gives wide-ranging authority to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop the regulatory structure to certify and ostensibly measure the quality of early childhood programs that receive public money.
Under the bill:
• BESE would have responsibility for overseeing and managing all state or federally funded early childhood care and education services and would have to set up a system for doing so by the 2015-2016 school year.
• BESE would be responsible for developing a definition of "kindergarten readiness," setting goals for children who are less than 3-years-old and establishing academic standards for 3-year-old and 4-year-old children. The board would also create a testing system for pre-schoolers that includes handing out letter grades for the programs.
• Along with the Department of Children and Family Services and the Department of Health and Hospitals, BESE would set uniform standards for day cares to be licensed and participate in state programs.
Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, tried to strip the provision that would assign letter grades to a specific local entity. He argued that the prospect of high-stakes testing for three- and four-year-olds is inappropriate. "They're still children," he said. "It's knowing your colors and your shapes. But they're not yet in the full education system."