List of school mandates on chopping block

State education officials said Thursday they will recommend a reduction in mandates required of local school districts.

“We have either struck down or rewritten a large number of regulations that try to make decisions about kids from Baton Rouge,” state Superintendent of Education John White said, a reference to rules required by the state Department of Education.

The plan will be submitted to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for final approval next week.

The rules are included in the Louisiana Handbook for School Administrators, which is known to insiders as Bulletin 741.

Under the changes, school districts would gain the authority to adopt their own school calender.

In addition, they could allow students to earn credits by showing proficiency on an exam or other work rather than requiring them to sit through a specified number of minutes of instruction.

The plan would allow dance team members and others involved in strenuous physical activities of at least 100 minutes per week to earn credit for physical education.

It would also end the requirement that districts order instructional materials six months before school begins.

BESE voted earlier this year to end the rule that districts can only order textbooks off lists approved by state officials.

White said current rules even extend to state oversight of district identification badges.

“There is no reason that Baton Rouge bureaucrats need to be policing whether employees have the right ID badges,” he said.

Mike Faulk, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said superintendents generally favor the changes, especially amid state- and federal-ordered public school changes.

“It gives us more flexibility,” said Faulk, who is superintendent of the Central school system.

Patrice Pujol, superintendent of the Ascension Parish school system, said the list of state-mandated rules has caused concerns for years. “It doesn’t make sense,” Pujol said.

White said he also will ask BESE to approve plans to delay the purchase of some new textbooks for the 2013-14 school year.

The books are generally replaced every seven years.

New language arts books are due for public school students from kindergarten through fifth grade and math textbooks for students from kindergarten through second grade.

The superintendent said the delay stems from the fact that the state, like most others, will implement more rigorous classroom standards starting with the 2014-15 school year.

Any new textbooks bought now, he said, would soon be out of date.