A review of some of the bills this legislative session that impact students and schools

At NSNO, one of our strategic priority areas is policy: we advocate to maintain an environment that supports positive outcomes for children. We want them to meet their academic goals, hold and reach big dreams, and know they are loved and belong. We strive to ensure they receive the best possible education, and grow in schools where they feel holistically supported and cared for. Laws made by the Louisiana State Legislature have a significant impact on that, and we are grateful for the lawmakers who facilitate the great work of our schools and educators. 

This session, we followed a number of important bills that will impact the lives of our students, families, and educators. While we were pleased with the outcomes of some bills that were filed by legislators this session, we are dismayed by the passage of others. We were disappointed that a bill establishing permanent raises for educators did not pass, though glad that educators and support staff will see stipends of $2000 and $1000, respectively. We were also disappointed by a number of bills that threaten the well-being of our LGBTQ+ students and educators. We believe these bills will harm our community and are glad that Governor Edwards has vetoed them. 

Senate Bill 25 failed to make it out of the Senate Committee on Education.

SB25 challenged the foundation of New Orleans’ system of schools, as well as the freedom and flexibility our educators have within it. Earlier this spring, we published an article about our opposition to this bill, and our CEO, Dana Peterson, joined many school leaders, parents, and teachers at the Capitol to testify against it. Thankfully, the bill failed to advance out of committee–this allows us to shift our focus to the many pressing matters facing our students and schools.

The legislature rejected permanent proposed increases in school funding and teacher pay. 

The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) initially proposed a school funding formula to the legislature that would have provided permanent $2,000 pay raises for teachers, $1,000 permanent pay raises for support staff, funding for differentiated pay raises for staff according to flexible priorities, additional dollars for career technical education, and increased per-pupil funding for schools to cover increased operational costs due to inflation. However, over the course of the session the legislature negotiated cuts, ultimately resulting in a last-minute budget that gives one-time stipends to teachers of $2,000 and $1,000 to support staff, as well as one-time differentiated funding pay raises.

The legislature rejected the other increases in school funding, instead choosing to put those dollars toward paying down statewide debt related to the state Teachers Retirement System. At NSNO, we are committed to making New Orleans the best place in the nation to teach. For that to be the case, schools need adequate funding and teachers need competitive, sustainable salaries. We hope that, in the future, the legislature passes increased school funding and permanent pay raises. 

Senate Bill 81, Associate Teacher Act, passed and was signed (now Act 99).

This bill allows teachers who have an associate’s degree and are enrolled in a 4-year bachelor’s degree program to serve as teachers, under the supervision of a mentor teacher, while they study. Like many cities nationwide, New Orleans needs more great teachers in our classroom, and we are hopeful that this bill will bring more educators to this important work, under the supervision and support of veteran educators. At NSNO, we support many ways to address this, and we’re grateful for this additional support to prepare more qualified educators for our classrooms. 

The legislature approved a bill, HB78, to make changes to New Orleans funding for school facilities and systemwide needs.

House Bill 78, now Act 55, was developed by NOLA-PS to make changes to two of the district’s funding programs. The bill updated the School Facilities Preservation Program to ensure that school programs, like the New Orleans Career Center, and therapeutic day programs, have access to school facilities funding when they are in school board facilities, the same as full schools. The bill also updated the Systemwide Needs Program, which provides funding for citywide initiatives to serve student needs, to dedicate funding to NOLA-Public Schools central office personnel to help manage and oversee the program.

House Resolution 13, which targeted learning around diversity, equity, and inclusion, did not pass.

A house resolution, HR13 requested that schools report any programming around diversity, equity, and inclusion, social emotional learning, or “critical race theory.” Thankfully, this bill was also involuntarily deferred in committee, which means it will not move forward. 

Bills targeting LGBTQ+ students and educators passed, but Governor Edwards vetoed them.

There were a number of bills introduced this legislative session that threatened the well-being, autonomy, and rights of our students and educators, as well as their ability to learn from a diverse and accurate range of literature and history. They mirrored some prior years’ bills, which we have stood against, that restricted students’ participation in sports and their ability to learn about important topics like racism in schools. At NSNO, we feel such bills are harmful, and it was disappointing to see new ones emerge and pass. We are pleased that Governor Edwards has vetoed House Bill 648House Bill 81and House Bill 466

At NSNO, we stand with our LGBTQ+ students, educators, and families. We want our students to feel fully supported, loved, and a sense of belonging in their schools. We know this can help them engage and thrive at school. We are grateful for the diversity of identity and experience represented in our classrooms, and we want to ensure that every child and educator feels fully supported by their school. 

We asked Superintendent Williams and her team about their support of LGBTQ students and educators. 

“We believe that every child deserves to learn in an environment where they feel safe, seen, and valued for who they are. Our educators and staff members deserve the same,” Superintendent Williams told us. 

As an organization, we work for the day when every student in our city has an excellent education. Our legislators play a powerful role in this. Their decisions can expand opportunities for children and facilitate the work of educators. They can also restrict their rights and make their work harder. This legislative session, we saw some of both. In the face of all this, we remain clear in our convictions about what children and teachers deserve, and we’re proud to be among the many advocates working to provide that.  

We are grateful for our many partners in this work–whether they join us from government buildings or school buildings, fellow nonprofits, businesses, or students’ homes. Together, we’ll keep advocating to build the strongest possible public education system, in which every student can truly thrive. 

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