State’s COVID comeback plan for Louisiana students promises transparency

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(The Center Square) – Louisiana State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley has unveiled a plan to address learning losses attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and the windfall of federal funding that’s ensued.

Called “Louisiana Comeback,” Brumley and the Louisiana Department of Education outlined three main areas for student progress: attendance and well-being, professional learning and recovery and acceleration.

Brumley asked local school systems to embrace the plan and invest a portion of their record stimulus relief funding into the three DOE initiative areas.

“I’m excited to see the tremendous progress our students will make by school systems collectively focusing their funds, time and effort into areas that bolster student achievement,” Brumley said.

“Louisiana school systems have received about $4 billion dollars of stimulus funds to support efforts like these, and we need to use our one-time resources well. We must utilize the dollars to get us through this tough time and prepare our state to be better post-pandemic,” he said.

The announcement followed the release of statewide testing results, which showed Louisiana’s students have fallen behind.

The Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, or LEAP, reported a proficiency decrease of 5 percentage points in grades 3-8 over the past two years, meaning fewer children are prepared to move to the next grade level. High school students also registered a 5-percentage-point decline during the period.

The COVID-19 pandemic and a series of hurricanes were blamed for the test results, though Louisiana has struggled with student performance before 2019.

Daniel Erspamer, chief executive officer of the New Orleans-based Pelican Institute, said the Louisiana Comeback is an opportunity for change, providing transparency is applied to the stimulus funding.

“Pre-pandemic status quo should not be the goal,” Erspamer said. “Education outcomes in Louisiana lagged behind the rest of the country long before COVID-19. Now is the time for bold action, high expectations, and clear accountability to ensure every child in Louisiana has an opportunity to attend a school that fits him or her.”

The Louisiana Legislature passed a transparency bill, House Bill 38, earlier this year that would have required local school districts to publish spending information online, but Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed the legislation in July.

Edwards, a Democrat, said the bill was “unaffordable.” A financial impact assessment from the Legislative Fiscal Office showed a cost of $540,540 over five years.

Brumley said the DOE is developing a fiscal dashboard to track and report how the state and local school systems are budgeting the $4 billion in federal relief, which is in addition to the state’s record 2021-22 school year budget of $3.9 billion.

“Transparency and accountability remain the top priority,” a DOE news release said.

Schools that show measured progress in student proficiency and ACT scores, as well as decreases in “unsatisfactory” LEAP scores, will receive additional funding.

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