The Hayride

On Louisiana Public Education, The Establishment Has Lost The Confidence Of The Public

On Louisiana Public Education, The Establishment Has Lost The Confidence Of The Public
December 14
11:23 2011

Virtually every time we do something on public education in Louisiana or the reform thereof, the comments under the posts invariably contain vigorous, if not shrill, attempts at casting blame upon parents, politicians, or society in general for the woeful performance of the state’s public schools. The suppliers of said excuses usually declare themselves to be teachers, toiling away thanklessly in the trenches and beset by unfeeling conservatives who want to take away what little they have.

The education establishment won’t stop fighting to hold on to the status quo; that was clear Monday when Lottie Beebe, the only member of that establishment to win an election to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this past fall, strode into a panel discussion on education reform at the Pelican Institute’s Legislative Policy Orientation and assailed the prospect of naming John White, head of the state’s Recovery School District, as the new education superintendent.

But Beebe was quickly brushed aside by the panel’s moderator, and BESE members Chas Roemer and Penny Dastugue made it clear they didn’t see her having much sway in regard to White’s appointment as her term begins. Beebe and the state’s educrats are demanding a national search for White’s prospective job, which is an attempt to prolong the process and in so doing hopefully redefine what Louisiana is looking for as a leader of its K-12 educational efforts.

They’re not going to win that fight. BESE’s current composition insures that White will get the job. But the educrats have a bigger – and deeper – problem. Namely, that voters in Louisiana have taken measure of their work product and found it to be unacceptable. The voters in this state have decided they’ve had enough of what the current system has to offer and they want something new.

What’s more, they see that something new and like it fine.

Two polls surfaced today which provide some perspective as to how deep Louisianans’ dissatisfaction with the current state of educational performance in public schools really is. The first was picked up by the Baton Rouge Business Report this morning…

A recent survey of “likely Louisiana voters” shows widespread dissatisfaction with public education in the state. The survey from Southern Media & Opinion Research Inc., conducted twice annually, is funded by Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby, whose Alliance for Better Classrooms political action committee was very active in the recent Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education elections. When asked to grade public education in general, just 4% of respondents gave it an “A,” while 36% gave it a “C,” 29% gave it a “D” and 13% gave it an “F.” Survey results also showed:

  • 26% say the quality of public education is improving, 31% say it’s getting worse, and 41% say it’s staying the same.
  • 53% say they’re dissatisfied with public schools in their own parish, compared to 41% who are very satisfied.
  • 67% say they support Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to reform public education.
  • 25% say the main problem Jindal and lawmakers face is education; 22% say jobs and unemployment constitute the main problem.
  • 90% say they support changes that would require tenured teachers to undergo periodic approval to keep their status.

Grigsby’s efforts at school reform are well known, and it’s a valid criticism that some of the numbers in SMOR’s poll could be cooked – you can make a poll say whatever you want if you ask the questions the right way.

Even so, when two-thirds of the public says they like what Jindal wants to do with education – which it’s well known involves the Teach For America/charter school/teacher accountability/school choice model – it’s clear a majority exists against the status quo. The BESE elections were obvious manifestations of that, Beebe’s good fortune on Election Night notwithstanding.

And then there’s another poll; this one coming from researchers at Tulane and reported in the Times-Picayune involving what folks in New Orleans think of White’s work with the RSD and the charter schools down there…

About two-thirds of public school parents feel the city’s post-Katrina school system is an improvement over what existed before, according to a new survey commissioned by Tulane University researchers. About 98 percent agree that it’s important to be able to choose which public school their child attends — one of the most distinctive and controversial features of the new system — and 86 percent say information about their options is readily available.

Overall, the survey results suggest parents are happy with the system of autonomous charter schools that has evolved over the past six years and are optimistic that things will continue to improve.

The T-P had a graph of the poll results worth including here…

The difference between 2009 and 2011 in terms of measuring improvement is stark. It’s quite clear that a couple of years into the experiment of a New Orleans school system consisting mostly of independent charters, folks have seen the benefits and have bought in.

Remember SMOR’s poll – statewide, the numbers are 26 percent saying schools are improving, 41 percent saying there’s no change and 31 percent saying they’re getting worse. 26-41-31 statewide, where most schools operate on the traditional model, and 74-21-6 in New Orleans with the charters.

People like choice. People want a market.

The educrats are on the wrong side. And they’ve lost this fight. It’s as simple as that. They can scream about Jindal and the Republicans and Chas Roemer and John White all they want, but at this point those guys aren’t their problem.

Their problem is the people of this state. And if their response is that the people are ignorant or stupid, then the question to ask is, “Well, who’s responsible for those people being so dumb? Where’d they go to school and who taught them?”

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