BESE to hold hearing on new rules for voucher schools

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(Baton Rouge- October 23, 2012) Responding to a request from the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has scheduled hearing to accept public comments on proposed accountability rules for private and religious schools that accept state funds as tuition vouchers.

The public hearing will be held from 2:00 P.M. until 4:00 P.M. Thursday, October 25, in BESE’s Claiborne Building auditorium, 1201 Third Street in Baton Rouge.

The Federation asked for the hearing after BESE proposed a new set of rules, to be called Bulletin 133, as criteria to determine which private and religious schools are eligible to receive vouchers.

When BESE took a vote on Bulletin 133 on July 24, the Federation opposed its passage because the proposed rules establish a much lower standard of accountability for voucher schools than for traditional public schools, according to LFT President Steve Monaghan.

“To be very clear, the Federation opposes vouchers,” Monaghan said. “That does not mean we can’t work to ensure that policies guiding vouchers make sense and are in the best interest of all our children.”

Opponents of the proposed rule were disappointed when BESE allowed them only three minutes to make their case and to suggest improvements, he said.

Monaghan said the LFT will present a number of suggestions on Thursday to raise the standards for participation in the voucher program.

The LFT requested the hearing under the Louisiana Administrative Procedures Act, which governs the way state agencies are allowed to pass new rules.

The rule approved by BESE is subject to the rulemaking procedures set out in the APA. After initial BESE approval of a new rule, the next step towards final adoption is to publish the proposal in an official document called the Louisiana Register. The publication triggers the time for public comment and request for a formal public hearing to consider changes to the rule prior to the Board's final action.