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Diversity spending info from K-12 schools, higher ed sought by Louisiana lawmakers

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Diversity spending info from K-12 schools, higher ed sought by Louisiana lawmakers

May 28, 2024 | 7:37 pm ET
By Piper Hutchinson
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Diversity spending info from K-12 schools, higher ed sought by Louisiana lawmakers
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Rep. Emily Chenevert presented her bill to the Senate Education Committee on May 15, 2024. (Allison Allsop)

The Louisiana Senate gave final passage Tuesday to a bill that would require K-12 schools, colleges and universities to submit reports on their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. 

House Bill 904, by Rep. Emily Chenevert, R-Baton Rouge, requires school-level reports on all DEI personnel, programs and spending at all Louisiana schools. Her bill is similar to a resolution filed last year that was defeated after higher education leaders fought back against it, calling the measure unnecessary. Chenevert’s bill passed on a 27-10 vote. 

Attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion are often premised on the idea that such programs bloat college budgets and increase student debt, in addition to conflicting with conservative viewpoints. Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requested a similar report in 2022. A review of this report by the Chronicle of Higher Education found no institution devoted more than 1% of its budget on DEI undertakings, with some spending as little as $9,000. 

Louisiana schools fall far below Florida in spending in practically every area. 

Chenevert said the bill is not an attack on diversity, equity or inclusion but just a bid to find out more information. 

“I believe in diversity. I think it does help,” Chenevert said when the bill passed the House. “So my question to each of you … is there anything that is causing a division among our students?” 

State School Superintendent Cade Brumley has said there is no place for DEI in K-12 schools. 

Her bill specifically seeks reporting on any “program, activity, initiative, event, instruction, action, or policy that classifies or references individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, culture, gender identity, or sexual orientation or promotes differential or preferential treatment of individuals on the basis of such classification.” 

University campuses across the nation have become battlefields for high-profile political culture wars as legislators have put DEI in their crosshairs. 

Since 2023, at least 85 bills aimed at curbing DEI-related campus policy have been filed in state legislatures, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s DEI legislation tracker. DEI programs on college campuses seek to aid disadvantaged students, including racial, ethnic and religious minorities, disabled students, veterans and other nontraditional enrollees. 

Chenevert’s bill is not necessary to generate DEI spending reports. Lawmakers often submit requests for information to universities, which they can then make public. 

The proposal now goes to the governor for action.