I apologize for my month-long absence, but my school responsibilities and play performances really absorbed my time. I am happy to return, though, and comment on a recent legislative act that’s been brought to my attention.
I normally don’t read legislative acts, written in a strange, complex language often requiring an interpreter, but proposed House Bill 49 written by Representative Stephen Carter deserves discussion. The People LLC have been vigilant in scouring legislative acts, and they have flagged this proposed house bill by Carter who was instrumental in writing major education reform legislation in 2012. HB 49 is the perfect example of why the people of Louisiana are jaded both about the legislature as a whole and individual legislators in particular.
HB 49 initially appears innocuous: four sentences with subparts that appear to address a student’s readmission into school. The first sentence states that a city, parish, or local school board must readmit a student who meets five requirements, which are then listed. The second sentence states that if all five requirements are met, a student cannot be denied re-admission if the student: a) voluntarily withdrew from school; b) is pregnant; c) is a parent; or d) is married. The third sentence states that should the re-admitted student turn 21 on the admittance year, that student must be in the twelfth grade.
Sentence four is different. “Every person, regardless of age, shall be subject to all provisions of state law, all policies of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and all local school board policy applicable to public school students, including those provisions pertaining to discipline, suspension, and expulsion.”
What exactly does this mean? The explanation that is attached to the bill says that “every student,” not every person, an extremely important word choice that, if not fixed, is atrocious. To require “students” to be subject to state laws is highly different from “persons.” Since when does the BESE Board, a politically-charged organization with nine members who vote in lock-step with Governor Bobby Jindal, have the right to regulate all “persons,” regardless of age? Is a person from Orleans parish subject to the local ordinances of Lafayette parish? The law can be interpreted this way.
Worse, even should the word “students” re-emerge in the bill, it is still nefarious. First, what does sentence four have to do with students being re-admitted to a school? Little to nothing. Haven’t we already seen legislative acts declared unconstitutional because they don’t deal with a single topic?
Second, if all students are subject to all the things mentioned, that means every home-schooled and private school student is now required to meet all BESE requirements and state law, including adoption of Common Core. State laws mandates public school students must take standardized tests, so now all home-schooled and private students will have to take them too. This infringes upon the rights of parents who choose to educate their children as they wish.
If this is an error, and there is some indication that it is, then I hope this will be fixed and made explicitly to apply to public school students. If not, then the people of Louisiana have the right to question what is the purpose of such over-reaching legislation, and hope it never becomes law.