May 10, 2017 02:33 PM

Rep. Joseph Bouie, D-New Orleans, and Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, listen to opposition to Bouie’s bill, which he said would help disadvantaged charter school students. The bill died in the House Education Committee Wednesday.
Photo by Sarah Gamard

The House Education Committee Wednesday rejected 9-3 a proposal that would allow parents of children in public charter school to know what educational experiments in their schools are working and which aren’t, a void that its sponsor claims puts the public charter schools crossways with the law that enacted them.

Rep. Joseph Bouie, D-New Orleans, questioned whether the Louisiana’s charter schools are as effective as they claim.

Bouie, who said a vast majority of the children in his House district are enrolled in charter schools, believes Louisiana is violating the charter school demonstrations program law, which allows charter schools to experiment in programs and teaching methods in the hope of finding innovative and more effective ways to educate Louisiana students.

Bouie said parents of charter school students are unaware their children were part of any experiment, and the current system unintentionally harms African-American students.

House Bill 239 requests the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to share charter school performance data to the Legislature and legislative auditor by 2018, including a description of the program offered by the school and how it meets the needs of students.

Bouie said charter contracts currently do not require the school to identify goals and objectives, even though state law mandates that schools under experiments are supposed to report back to school boards so successes can be replicated in other schools.

Bouie said charter schools have not done what they are supposed to do: replicate schools that show success through data and evidence.

Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, in support of HB239, said charter schools are beneficial, but some parents have been unaware of experimental methods used and, as a whole, the ideals of experiment and replication have been “null and void” in practice.

Bouie said Louisiana has great charter schools that should be replicated, but most are failing and the program’s intended purpose is not being implemented.

“We are behaving as though all charter schools have efficacy,” he said. “We’re missing the boat.”

Sarah Vandergriff, a representative of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, argued there is more data collected by individual charter schools, which give more specific and therefore more effective information, than by the school districts.

“Our program is working,” Vandergriff said, adding that BESE has closed 38 noncompliant schools since it authorized charter schools under a 1995 law, not including school charters not renewed by local school districts.

Data from the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) shows Louisiana students have improved significantly in national tests and outranked peers in neighboring states in the past five years.

But Bouie disputes LDE’s data because it is not representative of particular districts. He countered that the legislative auditor’s latest performance audit available, published in 2013, showed it was unreliable.

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