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Jun 9, 2011 9:38 AM by Lauren Wilson & AP

Speaker declares college board merger bill dead

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - House Speaker Jim Tucker said Wednesday that the governor's push to consolidate Louisiana's five college management boards into one won't escape the legislative session, facing strong opposition from higher education leaders and questions about whether the reorganization would save money.
One piece of the consolidation made it out of the House Education Committee, but the other portion remains stalled there. Similar legislation hasn't yet had a hearing in the Senate
Education Committee with two weeks remaining in the regular session.
"The consolidation is dead," said Tucker, R-Terrytown, who is the sponsor of one of the two merger bills.
A similar attempt last year also failed to gain traction.
Supporters including Gov. Bobby Jindal say a single board would eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy, send more money to classrooms and better serve students.
Higher education officials say the changes wouldn't improve school performance and could distract from other attempts to make those improvements. Critics of a single board also say lawmakers have made a series of changes to higher education performance standards and funding initiatives that should have time to take hold before more management changes were made.
Though Tucker said the Jindal administration asked to pull the bill from consideration, the governor's office didn't concede defeat on the measure Wednesday.
"We continue to think a single board for higher education is the right idea. We've got a couple weeks left of session, and we'll continue pushing for our reforms," said Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin in an email statement.
The constitutional change would require a two-thirds vote from both the House and Senate and approval from voters in the fall.
Louisiana currently has separate governing boards that manage the LSU System, the University of Louisiana System, the Southern University System and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. The Board of Regents oversees them all.
They have 75 board members, 254 staff members, four board presidents and one commissioner, according to the governor's office.
The proposal would abolish all five boards and replace them with a new Louisiana Postsecondary Education Board of Trustees.

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