Since Hurricane Katrina devastated much of Southeast Louisiana a decade ago, the state has on embarked one of the most aggressive school choice and charter school experiments in the country. But this month’s statewide elections may put those reforms in danger.
Louisiana voters head to the polls on Oct. 24 to fill all eight seats on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), which oversees state education policy for 720,000 public schools. At the moment, education reform supporters have a 5-3 majority on the board. However, an “anti-Common Core” slate of candidates has emerged that could put those reforms in danger.
The “Flip BESE” slate was formed by activists opposed to Louisiana’s education reforms. They have used the unpopular Common Core state standards as a Trojan Horse to draw conservative supporters. Opposition to Common Core is understandable — but Louisianans may not realize what else they’re getting. Flip BESE candidates are also opposed to charter schools and advocate returning to a traditional public school model. That’s not a conservative vision, that’s the vision of the teacher’s unions.
Before the storm, New Orleans had some of the worst public schools in the America. In November 2005, the Democratic-controlled Louisiana legislature voted to allow the state’s Recovery School District to take over schools in Orleans Parish. The RSD then reopened many of those schools as charter schools. Today, 90 percent of Orleans Parish K-12 students are enrolled in a charter school.
When Republican Bobby Jindal was elected governor and Republicans gained control of the state house in 2007, school reforms were expanded. The legislature introduced vouchers to the Orleans Parish in 2008. Louisiana toughened its educational standards as well. Finally, in 2012 a statewide voucher program was rolled out.
Flip BESE is not a conservative vision; it’s the vision of the teacher’s unions
The results, particularly in Orleans Parish, have been nothing short of amazing. Test scores and graduation rates are way up from before the storm. The test scores are improving even faster than the rest of the state. The charter school system has also been flexible enough that it could innovate whenever more problems arose.
Among the Trojan horse BESE candidates is Democrat-turned-Republican Lee Barrios, who is seeking the District 1 seat representing staunchly conservative suburban New Orleans. Jim Garvey, an education reform supporter, currently holds the seat. In 2011, he crushed two opponents, including Barrios, with 58% of the vote.
Self-described progressive Peter Cook describes the contest: “Garvey, a Republican, has been a steadfast supporter of the reforms that have resulted in the academic gains Louisiana has witnessed over the past decade. Barrios, on the other hand, has railed against virtually every education policy embraced by BESE in the past four years. She opposes Common Core, accountability, standardized testing, and charter schools. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Barrios is strongly backed by the state’s teachers unions, as well as Diane Ravitch.”
Barrios is just one example of how awful the “Flip BESE” slate would be to Louisiana’s children. District 2 candidate Kira Washington wants to abolish the Recovery School District. Washington, an assistant school principal in St. Rose, also said at a recent candidate forum, “I don’t need anybody from Baton Rouge telling me that I’m ineffective and pushing me out.” Incumbents Lottie Beebe and Carolyn Hill have been consistent opponents of charter schools. In District 6, Flip BESE is backing a candidate who is probably the first ever anti-school choice libertarian in blogger Jason France.
On October 24, Louisianans should do their research like it is mandatory to do research before investing in any online trading robots like the Bitcoin Code about which you can find out everything at https://cybermentors.org.uk/bitcoin-code/bitcoin-code-should-you-invest/ before you invest. It is important to protect one’s interests and not just invest in any scheme just like it is in their interest to find out more and not just vote for a candidate who is “anti-Common Core.” Voters should ask BESE candidates if they’re for continuing all of Louisiana’s education reforms, such as charter schools and accountability. Using Common Core to ditch successful education reforms would be a poor trade..