Blueprint Cites Workforce, Higher Ed Progress

June 28, 2010

With lawmakers’ attention predominantly focused on the state’s fiscal situation, the 2010 regular legislative session still produced a handful of key measures aligned with Blueprint Louisiana priorities.

In the area of workforce development, Centers of Excellence legislation and bills to transfer responsibility for adult education from the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to the Louisiana Community and Technical College System passed. In higher education, the Louisiana Granting Resources and Autonomy for Diplomas Act (LA GRAD Act) also received legislative approval.

“While most were rightfully focused on fiscal issues, the 2010 legislative session continued a trend of producing key reforms,” said Blueprint Louisiana Chairman Bill Fenstermaker, President and Chief Executive Officer of C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates of Lafayette. “The Louisiana Community and Technical College System under Dr. Joe May’s leadership has improved the workforce development culture in our state and has earned these additional responsibilities. We believe our four-year higher education campuses, with the flexibility provided by the GRAD Act, are also poised to deliver better results for students and parents.”

The Centers of Excellence package consisted of Senate Bill 712 by Senator Ben Nevers and a handful of Senate co-authors and Senate Bill 752 by Senator Gerald Long and several House co-authors. SB 712 is enabling legislation that establishes a process for the formation of Centers of Excellence within LCTCS. SB 752 establishes a public-sector financing mechanism for Centers of Excellence, provided there is a private-sector match.

“Establishing these high-quality teaching and workforce training centers has been part of Blueprint’s agenda since our origination,” Fenstermaker said. “As committee testimony showed, there are private companies in certain fields who are ready to partner with LCTCS to help meet key workforce needs. Hopefully, this legislation will allow these potential partnerships to blossom.”

Senate Bill 297 by Senator Jack Donahue and numerous Senators and Representatives and House Bill 1055 by Representative Cedric Richmond are two identical bills that transfer responsibility for adult education from BESE to LCTCS. SB 297 has already been signed by the governor and is Act No. 132.

Blueprint believes the components of the LA GRAD Act (House Bill 1171 by Speaker of the House Jim Tucker) provide a roadmap to improve student outcomes, graduation rates and overall campus efficiency and performance. The legislation provides campuses with more autonomy and operational flexibility, but with clearly defined statewide performance goals that will be reviewed annually.

“The GRAD Act represents a synergy of accountability, aligned incentives and autonomy,” Fenstermaker said. “No question funding remains a challenge for the state’s higher education system. And while the GRAD Act allows institutions to bring their tuition more in line with the regional market, the performance measures are a fundamental reform that should focus campuses on maintaining and improving the quality of their educational offerings.”

Established in 2006, Blueprint Louisiana is a citizen-driven effort to identify and implement essential changes to fundamentally improve Louisiana. The group’s original vision for a better Louisiana focused on major governmental reforms in the areas of ethics, education, workforce development, health care, transportation and coastal restoration and hurricane protection. Last year, it added a “new economy” component (higher education and economic innovation) to its reform agenda. The nonpartisan effort is led and supported by community and business leaders from across the state.

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