Advocates of the status quo comfortable at doing the same things that have kept Louisiana’s educational system dysfunctional kicked off their seven-stop gripe tour yesterday, reminding us why they cannot be allowed to prevent beneficial reforms.
Fronted by one of the state’s two main teachers’ unions, this tour, with a few brave exceptions, features commentary by those either directly responsible for or who have served as fellow-traveling hacks for promoting and implementing an ideology that has led to trashing Louisiana public education and its a richly-deserved past reputation of failure. While any topic seemed to be fair game, the rhetoric focused primarily on the COMPASS teacher evaluation system now in place across the state that evaluates core subject teachers half on the basis of quantifiable student progress, and secondarily on the scholarship voucher program where the state pays for students in poorly-performing public schools to attend other, almost all, private schools.
As always in these cases, the commentary that came must be translated. Regarding COMPASS, union-bought-and-paid-for Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Lottie Beebe (a former school official who soon will take over – parents be on alert – the St. Martin Parish School District) asserted, “Teachers do not object to the teacher evaluation process. However, we have real concerns with COMPASS.” Translation: “Teachers don’t object to a process where only 2.38 percent of experienced teachers get fired despite having horrendous learning outcomes. Our real concern is that our incompetents now will be found out by COMPASS.”
Beebe claims the process was not properly vetted before implementation this school year – essentially a factually incorrect statement. The COMPASS system was tested in a pilot program for a year prior to implementation, with changes made in response. The only thing materially different not thoroughly investigated was changing the value-added portion from a 22-category rubric to one with only five, a simplification decision about which the originator of the instrument is unsure would replicate faithfully its validity. But if for some reason a problem did arise, as the consequences of the outcomes would not apply until two years after implementation, there would be plenty of time to go back and to delay using the results for a year. This simply isn’t an issue and the lack of justification provided to make it such does not warrant delay, as Beebe and others advocate, at this time.
Other rhetoric verged into the realm of conspiratorial power-seeking with no recognition of the looking-glass quality it represented. Thus, we got from Kwame Asante, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Baton Rouge Chapter, this gem concerning the effect of vouchers: “This isn’t about the majority of black children. It’s about the few. It becomes a private corporation running your child’s education.” He further claimed it was a tactic to turn the black community against public education institutions.
This came in the broader context of the recent narrative that elites dispossessed of power in the state over the past few years have tried to propagate, aided by a willing and uncritical media, that bogeymen are out there (in their most recent formulation, in the guise of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group to which maybe a quarter of Louisiana legislators belong, that promotes market-oriented public policy and limited government) trying to disserve the people generally, and in this specific case black children, by the introduction of these reforms, in order to profit off of them.
With such as asinine statement and related attitude, it’s best to begin its dismantling at the level of factualness. Hardly any of the participating schools are for-profit and almost all are religious-based. Add to this the implied imperiousness that, because his race-conscious group is against the public policy approach represented by the reforms, therefore any black person that sees benefit in the reforms is at best a fool, at worst a traitor to … to what?
Well, keep in mind that this is spoken in the context of full knowledge of an educational system that has disserved children, but most particularly black children, for decades, yet the speaker wishes to continue supporting the same system without any real change. In this warped theology, government always knows best, and the government-monopoly model of provision is best; only government educators and the policy-makers and special interests who support them have pure motives while those outside that are exploiters.
In essence, you are a black traitor, according to these nimrods, if you go against an ideology that has failed school children for decades in the state. It’s not that those who continue to give it full- throated support are too stupid to figure out they can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results, or that they are too ideologically-enthralled with the idea of big government and the payouts it gives through jobs, contracts, and services geared to their particular special interests, but that you the dissenter to this orthodoxy are the problem – simply because that it is the divine right of those who arrogate to themselves the mantle of what is good for the group they claim to represent to dictate to you what must be right and wrong for you, regardless of you. No, you’re at fault and to blame for wanting better because it is politically incorrect and inconvenient for the elites, putting their power and privilege at risk.
Which leads to a final bit of idiocy as expressed by one of the less useful members of Legislature, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, who editorialized that reforms were designed as “part of an overall effort to undermine public confidence in our public institutions.” It hasn’t seemed to occur to this dunderhead that reform demands, emanating from the people through the ballot box into the makers of public policy, do not cause but are a reflection of a lack of public confidence in public schools, coming about precisely because of the failure of public schools. The only undermining of this confidence is as a consequence of miserably underperforming public schools for decades, brought about by these public institutions themselves being operated by elites who can’t give up their faith in the government-monopoly model.
Thus, as expected, from that end of things the whole exercise turned out to be one long rant with no recognition of the internal contradictions of their own preaching. And serves as another reminder why we never again must trust the education of our children, with all that holds for their lives and futures, to these people and their ideas.