You probably didn’t notice, but last week Louisiana made it a lot easier for families to be engaged with their children’s education. On Friday, Governor John Bel Edwards signed Act 547, revising the state’s existing Parents’ Bill of Rights and expanding parents’ access to education information in several important ways. Effective August 1, 2018, parents have the right to:
- Receive a child’s education records within 10 business days of submitting a request. The law clarifies that parents do not have to make the request in-person and that electronic copies of records must be provided at no charge. While some schools do a great job getting this information to parents already, others treat students’ files as if they are top-secret, making parents jump through hoops to get the results of benchmark tests or other such records, or drawing the process out for weeks or months.
- Access the final school calendar for the academic year at least 30 days prior to the first day of school. Believe it or not, some schools currently have no published calendar at all, or release their calendar only after the school year has started, making it hard for parents to plan ahead. Important dates for parent-teacher conferences, testing, and teacher development days are sometimes communicated with just a few days’ notice.
- View a complete listing of school fees and the purpose of each. Though public schools are supposed to be free, it has become more common for districts to charge fees for a wide range of routine activities. This requirement will improve transparency and ensure families understand what they’re paying for and why.
- View any school uniform requirements on the school website. This also will make it easier for parents to plan for the year and manage their budget—and show whether schools are requiring expensive uniforms that can only be purchased at specialty stores, driving up the true cost of attendance.
- Be promptly informed if their child is at-risk of not being promoted to the next grade level. Under the law, parents must be notified if their child is at risk of failing the grade and offered an in-person meeting to discuss how to address the issue. Right now, too many parents learn that their children are in serious academic peril only when it’s too late to prevent failure.
This is a big victory for Louisiana families. It’s also common sense, which is why it easily passed the legislature with bipartisan support. We want parents to be more involved with education, not less. We need their active participation. But often, parents are on the outside looking in.
For us at EdNavigator, this milestone is personal. The first person I think about is Rameisha Johnson, one of our Navigators in New Orleans. She grew up attending local public schools before working in them. Today, she’s a public school parent.
Rameisha is our point person and expert on student records. She wants every parent to have the most complete, honest picture of how their children are doing. Over the past few years, Rameisha has driven tirelessly from school to school submitting requests, speaking with school administrators, and picking up packets of records for parents. She’s been ignored, stalled, misled, given the runaround… you name it. But she never quits.
And when the new Parent Bill of Rights was considered by the House Education Committee on April 4, Rameisha was front and center, sharing her own experiences as a mom as well as those of the families she has supported through her work as a Navigator. After hearing from her and others, the Committee recommended the bill 10-0.
PHOTO: Rameisha Johnson testifes about the Parents' Bill of Rights before the Louisiana House Education Committee in April.
For Rameisha and thousands of other parents like her, this is a time to celebrate. Louisiana just made it easier for you to be the sort of parent you want to be.