Tuesday, Aug. 5

Tuesday, Aug. 5

Special ed faces BESE scrutiny; Judge says Louisiana must provide voucher data to feds; Legislative Auditor raps waste tire program; Selection process for NOLA airport expansion delayed

Special ed overhaul faces BESE scrutiny next week
While the debate over Common Core has been making headlines recently, another controversial issue affecting thousands of Louisiana families is on the horizon. Next week the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will begin the process of changing the way special education students can earn their high school diploma. As The Advocate’s Will Sentell writes, “Under current rules, most high school students with disabilities face the same standardized exams as their peers, which critics say poses a major roadblock to graduation. Under the change, a special education student’s advisory team could hammer out an alternative route to graduation, regardless of how the student fares on traditional exams.” The new standards mean BESE must create new criteria the advisory teams will use in charting new paths to a high school diploma. No one knows how many students will ultimately be affected by the changes, but there are roughly 74,000 special education students in state schools.

Judge says Louisiana must provide school voucher data to federal government
Louisiana’s Department of Education must continue to provide federal lawyers with annual reports on students and schools receiving school vouchers, a federal judge said Monday. U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle rejected claims from the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and five parents that he lacked jurisdiction to rule in the case, The Associated Press reports. But Lemelle said a 1975 desegregation order governing state spending for public schools applies to the state’s voucher program, which allows students to attend private schools on taxpayer dollars. The Justice Department requesting the annual reports to make sure the state’s assignment of voucher students don’t promote segregation.

Legislative Auditor criticizes state waste tire program
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) needs to “roll out” better ways of collecting fees from businesses that participate in the state’s Waste Tire Management Program. The program, which is designed to reduce environmental hazards caused by illegally dumping of old tires, requires residents to pay a fee when they buy new tires to help cover the costs of disposing the old tires. Businesses must then submit a report and remit the fees to the state each month. According to the Legislative Auditor report, DEQ does not have an effective process for identifying and following-up with businesses that fail to submit the monthly reports and fees. The auditor also found that DEQ failed to penalize businesses that did not submit timely and accurate waste tire reports and fees to the state. The audit identified over 1,000 delinquent violations in Fiscal Year 2013, but found only one business that was penalized.

Selection process for New Orleans airport expansion delayed
The board tasked with overseeing a $546 million expansion of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport delayed the opening bid process so that prospective members of the review committee could be vetted. The committee was originally scheduled to meet today; the new date has not been scheduled. This is the second time that the New Orleans Aviation Board has delayed the selection process. The board cancelled the initial request for proposals in June after labor rights groups accused the two joint ventures vying for the job of failing to maximizing benefits for poor and minority laborers. Those groups have since formed the Community Evaluation Commission, which issued a “community request for proposals” that asks potential builders to demonstrate their commitment to hiring locals, paying them a living wage and offering them opportunities to improve their careers.

Number of the Day

$1.5 billion: The net worth of Louisiana’s wealthiest resident, Tom Benson (Source: Vox)