Bill to ease RSD removal clears Louisiana House committee

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A bill that would make it easier to move public schools from state to local control won narrow approval Tuesday morning in the House Education Committee.

The proposal, House Bill 735, initially failed on a 6-6 vote.

But after other members of the panel appeared the plan was reconsidered and passed 8-7.

Under the bill, any parent of a student attending a school run by the Recovery School District could sign a petition asking that it be returned to the local school district.

Under current rules, the student has to have attended the school for two years for the parent to be eligible to sign the petition.

The measure would also drop the ban that prohibits petitions for schools identified for conversion to a charter school, which is a public school run by a non-governmental board.

“This bill is all about parent power,” said state Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge and sponsor of the plan.

What the impact would be if the bill wins final approval is unclear.

RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard said the state only has 15 public schools directly run by the RSD, including seven in East Baton Rouge Parish, and there will be none after the end of the current school year.

Opponents said the changes would undo provisions worked out by both sides of the debate on a related James bill that cleared the Legislature in 2013.

They also said it would be disruptive to pull plans for a charter conversion because of efforts to return the school to the local school district.

James said he plans to amend the bill when it is debated on the House floor, which is the next step.