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High school intern bill put on hold

Three Walker High School students, from left, Madison Eymard, Julianna Easley and Sasha Caruso — waited to discuss the intern bill. (Photo by Oscar Tickle / LSU Manship School News Service)

BATON ROUGE — Would business owners hire a high school intern if they could receive a state tax credit of up to $2,500 in return?

That’s the proposal in House Bill 637, authored by state Rep. Buddy Mincey, R-Denham Springs. It is not clear, however, how much that would cost the state, so Mincey agreed Monday to defer consideration of the bill until legislative budget analysts calculate that.

Under his plan, interns would have to go to public schools and would be paid for a minimum number of hours determined by the school. Students aged 16 and older would be eligible.

The internships would include classroom work as well as hands-on involvement in high-demand industries, including those that do not require a college education.

Mincey told the House Ways and Means Committee that the truancy rate is running at 46 percent across the state. Jason St. Pierre, the principal of Walker High School in a Baton Rouge suburb, said the rate at his school is 95 percent per month.

“We have to get out of the traditional mindset of ‘school,’ ” said St. Pierre. “Schools are selling an education to students, and what we are selling, they are not buying.”

Walker High School offers both banking and body-shop internships. Madison Eymard, a student government member at Walker High, spoke about why these programs are important to students.

“We want to be in front of adults and given responsibilities,” Eymard said. “We don’t want to waste our days doing worksheets in classrooms.”

Committee members indicated they would consider the bill once the fiscal impact was known. But Mincey’s idea is likely to face serious headwinds as Republican leaders try to avoid exceeding a state spending cap.

As a result of that pressure, the House Appropriations Committee advanced a state spending bill Monday that would drop $197 million for raises for K-12 teachers and $52 million for early childhood education from the budget that Gov. John Bel Edwards had proposed.


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