“The education reform bills that passed the Legislature provide a potential opportunity to improve education for our children. I commend reformers in the Legislature for fighting for the inclusion of important improvements in the school choice legislation. This includes amendments that strengthen oversight of independent charter school authorizers, and give priority for vouchers to the children who need the most urgent help and support.
“With these and other improvements, I believe this package of legislation is a step in the right direction for education reform. But these bills will mean nothing unless they are implemented thoughtfully. As such, I urge the Department of Education to develop strong criteria that hold participating nonpublic schools accountable for student success. In addition, any accountability criteria should be uniformly followed by public and nonpublic schools when using taxpayer money. I trust that the Department of Education will be rigorous in the development and oversight of these important accountability measures.”
Twick or Tweets
Not everyone is pleased with the education reform package signed by Governor Jindal today. Below is a press statement from the Louisiana Democratic Party:
Yesterday Louisiana Democratic Party Chairman Buddy Leach spoke to Louisiana educators on the steps of the Capitol as hundreds continued to protest Bobby Jindal's so-called education reform. Leach slammed Governor Jindal for putting his national political ambitions ahead of Louisiana's children and for bullying Louisiana teachers. Leach also thanked the educators for fighting for Louisiana's school children against Jindal's dangerous plans. Click the video below to see the clip.
House Speaker Kleckley held his weekly press conference today giving an update or the session.
License to Bully
Representative John Schroder has filed legislation which opponents are calling “License to Bully” legislation. Below is a statement from "Anti-Bullying Advocates" in response to the legislation
State Representative John Schroder (R-Covington), at the request of the Louisiana Family Forum, has filed HB 1101—the Louisiana version of the "License to Bully" bill that failed in states such as Tennessee and Michigan earlier this year. This bill represents a strikingly different approach to addressing school bullying than earlier legislation—HB 407 and SB 619—filed by Representative Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge) and Senator Yvonne Dorsey (D-Baton Rouge). HB 407 and SB 619, known as the School Bullying Prevention Act of 2012, are based on numerous national studies of best policies to prevent bullying and contain an enumerated list of characteristics that are often the motivating factors for bullying and harassment at school. Children from schools with enumerated anti-bullying policies are 50% more likely to feel safe at school, and they are only one-third as likely to skip a class because they feel unsafe. Teachers at schools with such policies are much more likely to intervene in bullying incidents.
Rep. Schroder’s bill does not contain an enumerated list and would severely weaken current state laws about school bullying. It includes an exemption for acts motivated by "religious, philosophical or political views," providing a loophole that gives students a blueprint for how to get away with bullying. Its companion bill in the Senate, SB 709, would criminalize school bullying, which is an unproven method for preventing bullying and should be concerning for citizens of the state with the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world.
Bruce Parker, the chief of staff of Capitol City Alliance, explains, “We know that enumerated anti-bullying policies that explicitly mention the most likely motivating factors for harassment at school empower teachers to protect their kids by providing clear and concrete guidance about what kind of acts are prohibited. The 'License to Bully' bill fails to include the most important provisions that could help the kids at highest risk receive the help they need, and instead encourages students to use religion as an excuse to torment and intimidate their classmates.”
Furthermore, Rep. Schroder’s bill insists that "bullying" has to be “the greatest or sole cause” of a student’s distress, allowing unsupportive and unsupported teachers and administrators to turn a blind eye to harassment in school as long as they insist that a child’s “greatest” problem is the disability, perceived sexual orientation, or religious belief that makes them a target in the first place. Stephen Handwerk, an activist with Equality Louisiana, says, “The religious exemption, or ‘License to Bully,’ reveals the bigoted intent at the heart of Rep. Schroder’s bill. With this provision, HB 1101 declares open season on children identified as gay, provided that their harasser asserts a religious motivation for their torment. What makes this especially tragic is that 80% of children harassed for being perceived as gay actually identify as heterosexual, but these kids are five times more likely to attempt suicide.”
Peter Jenkins, Chair of the Stonewall Caucus of Young Democrats of Louisiana, says, “The Louisiana Family Forum needs to stop playing politics with children’s lives. We know that bullied students attempt suicide at twice the rate of their peers. It’s time for Louisianians who care about all of our students to speak out in support of bullying prevention legislation that will actually make kids safer—HB 407 and SB 619.”
More Twicks or Tweets
TRAYVON MARTIN UPDATE: Expert: Zimmerman whispered 'punks' before shooting Trayvon Martin http://on.cnn.com/Hj4v2J
Jobs Act--Statement from the White House regarding the Jobs Act signed today:
oday President Obama will sign the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, a bipartisan bill that enacts many of the President’s proposals to encourage startups and support our nation’s small businesses.
The President believes that our small businesses and startups are driving the recovery and job creation. That’s why he put forward a number of specific ways to encourage small business and startup investment in the American Jobs Act last fall, and worked with members on both sides of the aisle to sign these common-sense measures into law today. The JOBS Act will allow Main Street small businesses and high-growth enterprises to raise capital from investors more efficiently, allowing small and young firms across the country to grow and hire faster.
“America’s high-growth entrepreneurs and small businesses play a vital role in creating jobs and growing the economy,” said President Obama. “I’m pleased Congress took bipartisan action to pass this bill. These proposals will help entrepreneurs raise the capital they need to put Americans back to work and create an economy that’s built to last.”
Throughout this effort, the President has maintained a strong focus on ensuring that we expand access to capital for young firms in a way that is consistent with sound investor protections. To that end, the President today will call on the Treasury, Small Business Administration and Department of Justice to closely monitor this legislation and report regularly to him with its findings. In addition, major crowfunding organizations sent a letter to the President today committing to core investor protections, including a new code of conduct for crowdfunding platforms.
In March of last year, the President directed his Administration to host a conference titled “Access to Capital: Fostering Growth and Innovation for Small Companies.” The conference brought together policymakers and key stakeholders whose ideas directly led to many of the proposals contained in the JOBS Act. A primary takeaway from the conference was that capital from public and private investors helps entrepreneurs achieve their dreams and turn ideas into startups that create jobs and fuel sustainable economic growth.
Key Elements of the JOBS Act
The JOBS Act includes all three of the capital formation priorities that the President first raised in his September 2011 address to a Joint Session of Congress, and outlined in more detail in his Startup America Legislative Agenda to Congress in January 2012: allowing “crowdfunding,” expanding “mini-public offerings,” and creating an “IPO on-ramp” consistent with investor protections.
The JOBS Act is a product of bipartisan cooperation, with the President and Congress working together to promote American entrepreneurship and innovation while maintaining important protections for American investors. It will help growing businesses access financing while maintaining investor protections, in several ways:
Allowing Small Businesses to Harness “Crowdfunding”: The Internet already has been a tool for fundraising from many thousands of donors. Subject to rulemaking by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), startups and small businesses will be allowed to raise up to $1 million annually from many small-dollar investors through web-based platforms, democratizing access to capital. Because the Senate acted on a bipartisan amendment, the bill includes key investor protections the President called for, including a requirement that all crowdfunding must occur through platforms that are registered with a self-regulatory organization and regulated by the SEC. In addition, investors’ annual combined investments in crowdfunded securities will be limited based on an income and net worth test.
Expanding “Mini Public Offerings”: Prior to this legislation, the existing “Regulation A” exemption from certain SEC requirements for small businesses seeking to raise less than $5 million in a public offering was seldom used. The JOBS Act will raise this threshold to $50 million, streamlining the process for smaller innovative companies to raise capital consistent with investor protections.
Creating an “IPO On-Ramp”: The JOBS Act makes it easier for young, high-growth firms to go public by providing an incubator period for a new class of “Emerging Growth Companies.” During this period, qualifying companies will have time to reach compliance with certain public company disclosure and auditing requirements after their initial public offering (IPO). Any firm that goes public already has up to two years after its IPO to comply with certain Sarbanes-Oxley auditing requirements. The JOBS Act extends that period to a maximum of five years, or less if during the on-ramp period a company achieves $1 billion in gross revenue, $700 million in public float, or issues more than $1 billion in non-convertible debt in the previous three years.
Additionally, the JOBS Act changes some existing limitations on how companies can solicit private investments from “accredited investors,” tasks the SEC with ensuring that companies take reasonable steps to verify that such investors are accredited, and gives companies more flexibility to plan their access to public markets and incentivize employees.
Additional Initiatives Announced Today to Promote Capital Access and Investor Protection
Monitoring of JOBS Act Implementation: The President is directing the Treasury Department, Small Business Administration and Department of Justice to closely monitor the implementation of this legislation to ensure that it is achieving its goals of enhancing access capital while maintaining appropriate investor protections. These agencies, consulting closely with the SEC and key non-governmental stakeholders, will report their findings to the President on a biannual basis, and will include recommendations for additional necessary steps to ensure that the legislation achieves its goals.
Crowdfunding Platforms Commit to Investor Protections: In a letter to President Obama, a consortium of crowdfunding companies are committing to work with the SEC to develop appropriate regulation of the industry, as required by the JOBS Act. Members of this leadership group are committing to establish core investor protections, including an enforceable code of conduct for crowdfunding platforms, standardized methods to ensure that investors do not exceed statutory limits, thorough vetting of companies raising funds through crowdfunding, and an industry standard “Investors’ Bill of Rights.”