The 2020 Legislative Session is officially underway. As an organization committed to ensuring bold, positive decisions made for the benefit of students and families, Stand for Children Louisiana plans to once again actively work to monitor and support legislation that will help all children meet their potential. Below is a short list of our 2020 legislative priorities.
Early Childhood Education & Early Literacy
Fewer than 50% of K-3 students in Louisiana performed on or above level on Fall 2018 literacy assessments. Early childhood education is critical in preparing young children to enter school. The governor’s executive budget includes $25.1 million in funding for early childcare. It is projected that this amount would fund early care and education for about 4,000 children.
Early learning is also essential in preparing young children for reading, which is essential to acquiring knowledge. Education leaders are addressing early literacy deficiencies of young learners in a number of ways which Stand for Children Louisiana plans to support.
HB 192 (Rep. Lyons) would require the coordination and reporting of data to assist legislators in evaluating the effectiveness of early childhood care and education networks as well as allocations of funding and services throughout the state.
HB 251 (Rep. Hilferty) would recreate the Early Childhood Care and Education Commission to study and create a vision for the future of early childhood education. It further establishes an Advisory Council to the Commission.
HB 559 (Rep. Duplessis) proposes an early literacy pilot program to develop and implement evidence-based reading instruction for children ages birth-3.
Stabilizing State Retirement System
The state retirement systems, particularly the unfunded accrued liability (UAL), are challenging agencies’ abilities to perform and provide services and threaten the overall sustainability of those retirement systems. The interest alone on the TRSL’s UAL is $900 million annually, for reference a $1,000 teacher pay raise costs the state about $100 million. Almost 30% of every dollar designated for the classroom never makes it there because it’s diverted to pay legacy retirement debt.
Serious reforms must be considered. We believe the first priority should be to ensure a sound retirement plan for teachers – promises made should be promises kept. Second, the UAL needs to be targeted for payoff with sound fiscal practices and realistic projections on investment returns. Numerous bills have been filed this session, and they will be a springboard for dynamic discussion and action.
HB 32 (Rep. Ivey) would establish an optional hybrid retirement plan for members of the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana.
HB 25 (Rep. Ivey) would require the Legislature to annually appropriate sufficient funds to cover the IUAL payment to TRSL in the appropriations bill and advise BESE to make that adjustment in the MFP.
Education Spending Transparency and Teacher Pay Increase
The federal ESSA law will require a high level of financial reporting of how school dollars are spent, this requirement will become effective at the end of this school year. Two bills filed this session would provide additional transparency to taxpayers on how tax dollars are being used to support education and would make that information easily accessible.
HB 293 (Rep. Edmonds) would add local school boards to the Louisiana fiscal transparency website called Louisiana Checkbook.
HB 309 (Rep. Garofalo) would add all local governments, including school boards, to the Louisiana Checkbook website.
In February, when the governor’s executive budget was presented, the lack of funding for a second installment of a promised and expected teacher pay raise had educators crying foul. The funding was increased by almost $39 million but the new money was earmarked for local school districts with a suggestion that the districts grant a $200 raise.
Later that month, the MFP Task Force met and recommended an additional $80 million in funding but that group only recommends actions to BESE. BESE must send the annual MFP resolution to the Legislature by March 15.
Criminal Justice Reform
Louisiana has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the world. In 2017, the Legislature passed the bipartisan Justice Reinvestment Act which redirected resources for nonviolent offenders from prison facilities to rehabilitation.
This session, the work will continue as legislators have introduced bills to remove some of the barriers around housing and employment that make prisoner reentry difficult and contribute to recidivism.
HB 482 (Rep. McKnight) would require that a list of all licenses and certifications completed by an offender while incarcerated be included on the photo ID card issued to all offenders prior to their release.