If a bill that passed a Lousiania Senate committee becomes law, charter schools in the state will be able to refuse to accept students based on sexual orientation or English language skills.

Here’s what’s behind the bill, which was sponsored by state Sen. A.G. Crowe, a Republican from Slidell.

In all of the contracts it makes with charter schools, the Louisiana Department of Education includes language that prohibits discrimination against a long list of groups. A department provision says, according to this story on The Advocate Web site:

Charter schools may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, creed, sex ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, age, ancestry, athletic performance, special need proficiency in the English language or in a foreign language, or academic achievement in admitting students, nor may charter schools set admissions criteria that are intended to discriminate or that have the effect of discriminating on any of these bases.

But the state legislature has only passed laws that forbid discrimination “on the basis of race, religion, national ancestry, age, sex or disability, ” the Advocate said.

Crowe’s bill, SB217 , seeks “to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national ancestry, age, sex or disability” but also “to prohibit certain designations not provided for in law.”

That would force the Education Department to remove the language barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and English language proficiency from its contracts.

The Advocate said that one woman with a charter school company, Leslie Ellison of New Orleans, told the committee that she had refused to sign a school contract with the Education Department because of the anti-discriminatory language involving gays and other groups not part of state law.

Ellison is president of the board of the Milestone SABIS Academy of New Orleans. SABIS is an education management organization with schools in 15 countries on four continents. The schools’ curriculum focuses on English, math, sciences and world languages.

SB217 passed the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations committee with only one dissent, coming from Sen. Edwin Murray, a Democrat from New Orleans, who said it was “really scary” to think that the legislation could become law.

Crowe has said he wants to ensure that state agencies stick to state law. His bill, he said, isn’t about discrimination.

Anybody actually believe that?

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