House refuses to loosen rules on school textbooks
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana House resisted efforts Thursday to give local public school districts more freedom to choose their teaching materials.
The proposal by Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, would have let local districts decide which books and materials should be used in classrooms.
The state education department would review instructional materials in English, math, science and social studies to decide whether they meet state educational standards. But local districts wouldn't be bound by its approved list.
The Senate already had approved the bill, but the House voted 49-35 against it.
Supporters of the measure said education was best left to local control.
"It moves from an adoption process at the state level to a recommendation process," said Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, who handled the bill in the House. "This is allowing local school boards to make decisions."
Among several concerns raised by lawmakers were that it would be difficult to maintain educational quality if every district chooses its own books.
"How do we ensure there's consistency across the board if everyone gets to choose their own textbooks?" asked Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, who voted against the bill.
She said schools could use books that wouldn't necessarily be in the best interest of students.
"I expect you'll find that 98 percent of the books that the systems adopt are going to be from that recommended list," Hoffmann said.
Others who voted against the proposal raised concerns about the review process that would have been outlined at the state level.
Appel had said he brought the measure to address concerns that parents have limited ability to review and comment on the teaching materials used in their children's schools.
Under the bill, local districts would have used review committees of teachers, parents and others to make recommendations about what instructional materials to use in classrooms.
The education department would have been required to post online the textbooks and instructional materials it reviews, and it would have helped with bulk purchasing to get deals.
Appel's bill also encouraged the use of electronic textbooks and other digital content, instead of printed materials.