As a long-standing advocate for excellence in public education, I’ve spent quite a few years as a public official focusing on and investing in what works for school turnaround and individual student success. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’ve championed the start-up, replication and expansion of high performing public charter schools and other best practices throughout Louisiana and the country.
In addition to supporting these proven strategies in traditional public schools and achieving significant results, I strongly support high-quality public charter schools because they are specifically designed to have the freedom and flexibility to implement new strategies and out of the box solutions for increasing student achievement while also being held accountable for overall success. Well-run public charter schools offer families a wider variety of options so that they can find the best educational fit for their family. I believe that expanding parental choice is an essential component for a quality public school system in the United States. High-performing public traditional schools and charter schools can literally build or rebuild neighborhoods and whole communities.
That’s why I was particularly disappointed to see the anemic outcomes of this year’s voucher results, with more than half of the reported schools showing failing student performance. It is even more disappointing to see more than $40 million of state general fund money being diverted to support an unproven model of reform.
There is no doubt that our parochial schools have noble intentions when wanting to open up opportunities for low income students with few good options. However, voucher programs can only really work within each parish when they compliment — not compromise — these important improvement efforts.
The Jindal Administration’s unnecessary and aggressive overreach at the expense of significant broad-based reform is a real setback to a decade or more of substantial progress.
Instead of unifying the broader coalition of education advocates throughout our state — representing Republicans and Democrats, business and labor leaders, teachers and parents — this has unnecessarily created a divide among the entities whose cooperation is essential for success.
I have a great deal of faith in Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White and the superintendent of the Recovery School District, Patrick Dobard. As we begin the new year, it is my hope that we can do a better job of empowering local school districts to embrace school choice and open up opportunities to use all assets in our communities and build 21st century schools that are succeeding for our children. I look forward to continuing to work with leaders in our state who share these goals and with my colleagues in the Senate to provide real opportunity and to deliver the promise of reform to every child in Louisiana.
U.S. Senator, Louisiana