State Rep. Hughes’ Speech Helps School Choice Bill Pass

On Monday, a school choice bill passed in the Louisiana House. The 72-32 vote was notable, but what made headlines was that seven Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the measure and a brief but passionate speech by state Rep. Jason Hughes (D).

In his speech, Hughes blasted what he called the “status quo” and the long-held Democrat position that the remedy to America’s educational deficiencies is to provide additional funding rather than additional education choices.

In recent years, the number of families seeking charter, private, and home school options has spiked. Proponents of these educational options argue that they provide superior and more customized learning opportunities.

President Joe Biden and most teachers’ unions oppose school choice measures. However, following widely criticized COVID-era school closures and mask and vaccination mandates, many have found the anti-school choice position challenging to defend.

In his statement to the assembly, Hughes argued that children were “trapped in failing schools” and that he had to “try to do something.”

He said, “As I watch children in poverty, trapped in failing schools, who can hardly read, I’d be damned if I will continue to defend the status quo.”

Noting that voting for the school choice bill may cost him politically, he said, “And in the event I’m not reelected, this is what I know: my steps are ordered. My heart is pure. I came here to do tough things. I came here to make tough decisions. And I came here to put children first.”

To his surprise, Hughes’ comments were met by applause. Low-quality video from the House Chamber has garnered more than 578,000 views.

Fox News reported that Hughes was the only Democrat in the Louisiana Appropriations Committee to vote to move the bill to the House floor. With the bill’s passage in the House, it will now move to the Senate where it is likely to pass as the upper chamber has a strong Republican majority.

Local school officials have criticized the bill’s passage. Administrators representing schools in Calcasieu Parish held a special meeting Tuesday evening and unanimously affirmed a resolution opposing the school choice measure.

State Rep. Julie Emerson (R), the author of the bill, told KPLC 7 News that the measure puts power and resources “in the hands of parents” and provides “more flexibility to tailor a student’s education to their specific needs.”

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