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Fighting Over 'Red Tape Reduction' Law in Louisiana

Last year, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law a measure that he said would allow local school districts to cut through the morass of educational bureaucracy and waive certain state laws that he argued stood in the way of academic improvement.

But now that policy is in limbo, following a state judge's ruling striking it down as unconstitutional. The state will appeal that decision.

The "Red Tape Reduction and Local Empowerment Waiver Program," allowed school districts to seek waivers of state laws, regulations, and policies in a broad range of areas, including curriculum, funding, personnel, and class sizes. The waivers would be granted by the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The law also specified that a school or district cannot request a waiver unless "a majority of teachers employed in the school," voting by secret ballot, approve of it.

But the Louisiana Federation of Teachers sued to block the law, saying that it violated the state's constitution. And this week, District Judge R. Michael Caldwell agreed.

To date, no waivers have been requested or granted by the Louisiana Department of Education. None will be approved during the appeal process before the Louisiana Supreme Court, state officials said.

The general counsel for the union, Larry Samuel, argued that the law improperly gives local districts, as well as the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (which is expected to file the appeal) the right to pick and choose which laws it wants to follow, and ignore the will of the legislature.

"They call it the 'Red Tape Reduction Act,' " he said in a statement released by the union. "To me, it's the 'if you don't like the law, you don't have to follow it act.'"

Jindal's office said the ruling will hamper districts as they try to to take bold steps to improve schools and cut costs—no small concern for systems in the state, and across the country these days.

"This is disappointing and ironic that the unions would obstruct the very reforms that will help teachers," said Kyle Plotkin, a spokesman for the governor, in a statement, "and most importantly, give schools more flexibility to provide our kids with a quality education."

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