It’s long been argued that the state of public education in Louisiana is, at best, lacking. And with the passage of many long-awaited education reform bills—including the statewide voucher program—the educational future for Louisiana has gotten a bit brighter.
Of course, the teachers unions and school boards have since been on a rampage to put these reforms to an end before they even have the chance to begin. They’ve gone to whatever lengths necessary to attempt to halt these reforms, namely the expanded Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) program. The good news is that they haven’t succeeded yet, and it seems their attacks are growing weaker and weaker by the minute.
First, we have the Tuesday ruling by Judge Timothy Kelley. He refused to rule in favor of the unions’ request for an injunction on the scholarship program. Doing so would have frozen the program where it stood and forced thousands of children back into an environment that isn’t working for them.
And just yesterday, an announcement by the state Department of Education regarding the program’s application period only further muffled those defenders of the status quo. It seems Louisiana parents, to the tune of more than 10,000, are fully embracing the opportunity to have a say in their child’s educational future. That’s right. Over 10,300 parents lined up to apply to for a chance to send their child to a participating school during just a four-week span.
These numbers mark the largest single-year application increase ever for a voucher program. Quite impressive, right? What’s even more impressive is that these numbers were achieved despite the opposition and a remarkably expeditious process. Much to the unions chagrin, of course.
So we know that the one-size-fits-all approach to educating our children has proven inadequate, and all children are unique. The remaining question–for which the answer, to us at least, is clear—is, who better than the parent to make the choice as to where and how their child is educated? As demonstrated through the SSEE application process, more than 10,000 Louisiana parents understand that they know best and are clearly taking advantage of that fact.
And let’s not forget the thousands of students in New Orleans who since 2008 have benefited from having educational choice. Just ask those parents like Valerie Evans, who’ve already been given that choice. “This program is a lifesaver for my child,” said Evans, whose son is in the program in New Orleans. “That means getting my son, Gabriel, out of a public school system that is filled with fear, confusion and violence, and getting him into a Catholic school where he will not only be safe, but will get the education he needs and deserves. Without a quality education from grade school, he won’t have the foundation he needs to get into college, graduate and be a success.”
Furthermore, a survey released by the Black Alliance for Educational Options in December showed that over 93 percent of parents with children enrolled in the New Orleans program are overwhelmingly satisfied with their child’s school.
But we’re not out of the woods yet, and as you read this, critics will continue to claim that with more time, the failing system will improve. They’ll further their claims by saying the statewide school choice program will only cause its demise.
We beg to differ, and so do the school choice programs across the nation.
With an expanded voucher program that parents are indeed embracing, competition will spread into the public school system, and just as in any other market, competition—not simply more time and money—will breed innovation and improvement. As has been proven time and time again, a lack of competition results in stagnancy and failure as the norm—a norm that has unfortunately characterized the current system in Louisiana.
The expansion of school choice throughout Louisiana has brought hope and much-needed opportunity to parents with children trapped in ineffective educational circumstances. The proof is in the pudding. And that proof comes in the form of the more than 10,000 parents who stood up to make their voices heard, all the way from Shreveport down south to Houma.