Louisiana Lawmakers Push for More Special Education Accountability

The legislation calls for schools to install cameras in classrooms with special education students within 90 days of a parent’s request.

Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville. speaks at the Wednesday, April 12, 2023, meeting of the Louisiana House Committee on Appropriations. (Francis Dinh/LSU Manship School News Service)

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Several changes could be in the works for how special education programs at Louisiana’s K-12 public schools are monitored. They include a deadline to install video cameras in classrooms that the state funded two years ago.

The Senate Committee on Education gave unanimous approval Wednesday to House Bill 153, authored by Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville. It needs only full Senate approval before the heading to Gov. Jeff Landry.

The legislation calls for schools to install cameras in classrooms with special education students within 90 days of a parent’s request. The framework for installing the cameras was approved in 2021, and state money for the equipment was provided in 2022. However, many parents still complain that the cameras haven’t been placed and schools are ignoring the requests.

“So, the cameras, we have tried to address this for a long time,” Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, said Wednesday at a Senate Committee on Education meeting. “I’ve seen the calls from parents who cannot get the cameras, even though we funded it, even though we have said it is an urgent need in those classrooms… I’d love to know the level of compliance with the requests that have been made.”

To address compliance concerns, Bacala’s bill requires each school district and charter school operator to submit a report to its local special education advisory committee. The reports must include, at minimum: any compliance violations for failing to meet special education requirements; details on federal, state and local funding; and academic performance details for special education students .

The bill also calls for local school board members to undergo training on special education policy in addition to the subjects they already have to cover, such as literacy and numeracy, dropout prevention, early childhood education, school discipline and bullying.

The legislation also addresses dispute resolutions for parents, who would get up to two years to request a hearing once they become aware of an alleged action. The two-year timeline does not apply if local school officials misinform parents or withhold information on a violation of special education policy.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is also directed to write rules for a early resolution process for settle “nonadversarial” disputes with local school systems.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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