What education topics are on the agenda for Louisiana's legislature in 2023?
The Louisiana Legislature dealt with several high-profile education bills during its 2022 session — including its own version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and a law barring transgender girls and women athletes from competing on female sports teams — and several bills have been filed addressing a range of education issues ahead of the 2023 session.
The legislature will convene April 10, and the session will end June 8. Here’s a rundown of some of the big education issues that likely will come up during the session.
Louisiana education board approves raises for teachers, staff and potential stipends
Will Louisiana teachers get another raise?
Gov. John Bel Edwards has advocated for the state’s teachers to get a $2,000 raise, though he also said that could climb as high as $3,000 if the funding is available. His proposal also included a $1,000 raise for support workers.
Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education largely backed the governor’s plan when it voted on changes to its funding formula March 8. The change included the raises, though it also included about $61 million that would allow districts to pay teachers stipends for working in high-needs areas or if they scored highly effective.
The legislature will approve or reject BESE’s changes to the formula. It can’t make changes itself, but it can deny the proposed changes and send them back to the board.
Edwards also had pushed for a $2,000 raise in 2022, but the legislature ultimately passed a $1,500 raise for teachers and a $750 raise for support staff.
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How can the state address reading levels?
The Louisiana Department of Education has put an emphasis on improving reading levels across the state in recent years, with one of the efforts being an overhaul of the system the state uses to track whether elementary students are reading on grade level.
A bill filed for the upcoming session also would look at tackling literacy. A bill by Republican Rep. Richard Nelson of Mandeville would prohibit students from being promoted from the third grade with some exceptions.
Currently, K-3 students in Louisiana take a literacy screener at the beginning of each semester. The state is in the process of changing this system for the next school year. Nelson’s bill would make it where students who score at the lowest level on the screener in third grade and received previous interventions on literacy could not move on to fourth grade.
The bill would provide the student another opportunity to take the screener prior to the new school year for a chance at advancement to fourth grade. Students who scored at the lowest level in third grade despite interventions also would be screened for learning impediments.
Nelson filed a similar bill in the 2022 session, which passed in the House but failed by one vote in the Senate and stalled while waiting for reconsideration.
Will the state have another “Don’t Say Gay” bill?
Louisiana’s legislature was one of several across the nation to consider following Florida’s lead in barring school staff from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with K-3 students. Critics of the law, which took effect in Florida in 2022, have said it would be used primarily to stifle education around LGBTQ+ issues and LGBTQ+ staff and students, which has led to it being referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Louisiana had a proposal in the 2022 session that looked at creating a similar law, though it ultimately stalled. So far, it does not appear that a successor has been filed, but there have been other bills proposed that deal with LGBTQ+ issues.
House Bill 81 would require school employees to use the names listed on a student’s birth certificate rather than a preferred name, unless a parent provided written permission otherwise. Schools also would have to use pronouns related to a student’s biological sex, unless a parent gives written permission.
The bill was filed by Rep. Raymond Crews, a Bossier City Republican who authored a resolution in 2022 that asked BESE to implement rules that prevented school employees from discussing their sexual orientation or gender identity with students. The resolution ultimately did not go anywhere in 2022.
Another bill, Senate Bill 7, does not directly deal with schools or LGBTQ+ issues, but it has been a concern among many gay and transgender rights groups. The bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Heather Cloud of Turkey Creek, follows Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s recommendations to prevent children from checking out books considered to be sexually explicit from public libraries.