Proposed bills could affect the Louisiana Special Education Center

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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - There is a long list of education bills going through the legislature. Two of them focus on the Louisiana Special Education Center in Alexandria.

Photo Source: KALB

"It's a wonderful place," said Democratic State Senator Jay Luneau. "It is a facility like none I've ever been in."

Senator Luneau is proud to have the Louisiana Special Education Center in Alexandria. So, it was alarming to him when rumors about consolidating the school surfaced several months back.

"The Department of Education has said they did not have plans to close the school," Senator Luneau said. "However, we were getting conflicting information from other sources that told us that was in the works. Frankly, the thing that concerned me more than anything else, was that there were some strange things that were going on that didn't have a good explanation."

Fearing the school was in jeopardy of closing, he authored a bill to transfer the center from the Department of Education's jurisdiction to the Department of Health.

"It will put it in line the way other facilities such as Pinecrest are run," Senator Luneau said. "It will ensure that the facility will stay there and it will continue to run and serve the clientele that they have."

He said more than 90 percent of LSEC's funding comes from Medicaid. It services orthopedic and multi-challenged students, ages 3-32.

"These students have ambulatory problems, very unique situations that require a lot of care," said Republican State Representative Lance Harris.

Rep. Harris agrees their long term care is the main focus. He authored a bill that looks at the length of a resident's stay.

"Right now in the statute it says a student can stay in the school until the age of 32," Rep. Harris said. "And they have to reach the proficiency level of 22 years old."

He wants that age to line up with the Department of Health's licensing age of 37 or more.

"What my statute would do, would leave it open-ended as to whatever the age comes across on the Louisiana Department of Health license," Rep. Harris said. "That is how long the student can stay at the school."

The Louisiana Department of Education's Press Secretary Sydni Dunn said in a statement that the department has been "working closely with the Louisiana Department of Health to determine the most appropriate governance for this facility."

They also sent a letter to parents and staff last month stating they are exploring the Louisiana Department of Health's role in the center's daily operations.

She also said there will be no consolidation. Last month State Superintendent John White addressed the same issue with BESE, saying there was no intention to relocate the center.

"It's the only school of its kind and they are very unique students," Rep. Harris said.

Both legislators said they haven't had any push back in Baton Rouge and also support each others bill.

"I've been working with all of the Central Louisiana delegations on this," Senator Luneau said. "Representative Harris and I have been working on this together. We are all working towards the same goal."

Senator Luneau said the Senate committee is discussing his bill on Tuesday. Representative Harris' bill was referred to the committee on education, but a meeting has not been scheduled yet.

For a look at the bills, visit the attached links.

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