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Grade for education in 2014 LA session not final - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Grade for education in 2014 LA session not final

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BATON ROUGE, La. (KTBS) -

Six hundred forty-two bills passed the 2014 legislative session and less than 30 of them were dedicated to Louisiana's schools and education.

So now that the dust of the three month session has settled, how did lawmakers leave the state of education?

Awarding a grade to lawmakers for education policy is still up for debate, and it might depend on who you ask. Jeremy

Alford, publisher of LAPolitics.com, thinks this was a session of "No" for education in Louisiana.

“It's kind of surprising because nearly 190 bills were filed to be routed through the education committees,” he said. “Which is in recent memory, we've never seen that many. The will just wasn't there.”

The three major education issues were common core academic standards, reforming the state's free college tuition program—TOPS—and tuition control for individual higher ed campuses.

On Common Core, a program that sets nationwide academic standards, the legislature struggled with reforms but only managed to pass a compromise measure that would delay the accountability for test scores until the 2016- 2017 school year.

“It was just too emotional for lawmakers,” Alford said. “A lot of lawmakers still are trying to figure out exactly what Common Core does. The governor changed his stance on it; didn't provide too much leadership on it.”

Ultimately the bill fell to a veto from Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has joined conservative groups attacking Common Core as a federal overreach into state education. Then Wednesday, Jindal tried to put a stake in Common Core's heart by saying contracts related to implementation violated state bid laws.

Turning to higher education, lawmakers replayed previous debates over reining in the cost of the TOPS tuition program which is expected to cost $235 million in the coming year. Once again, nothing changed despite pressures to balance the state's $25 billion budget.

“It's such a popular program that the lawmakers just didn't want to touch it,” said Alford.

The idea of the legislature giving the state universities more control of their own tuition rates also failed. There is still enough wiggle room for schools such as Bossier Parish Community College to raise rates by 10 percent just last week.

Failure is a good thing to the Council for a Better Louisiana.

“There were a lot of attacks against public education in a lot of ways, the reformed public education,” said Barry Erwin, president of CABL. “But the legislators said, 'No, we don't want to change what we've done.’ So from our point of view, the fact that we didn't see major changes in education is a good thing because that means we're sticking with some of the reforms that we've put in place.”

Education did get a huge win when it came to money. Erwin said the struggling school districts got some cash as well the state's colleges and universities.

Legislators kept $40 million in the 2014-2015 budget for the wise fund. That's money that Governor Jindal wanted state colleges and universities to strengthen the link between the course work and the state's employment needs.

“Hopefully they can feel like that the hemorrhaging on their campuses is going to stop,” Erwin said. “They'll be able to send a message about recruiting to faculty and students as well that is as sour as things have looked for higher education in our state for the last several years maybe we've turned a corner and maybe we're beginning to kind of rebound. But I think it was critically important.”

Over all, Erwin gives the session as a whole a C.

“I think some positive things definitely happened. How long we can continue with that and whether it can really be sustained is another question.”

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