The Louisiana House Democrat leader and candidate for governor John Bel Edwards has decided to carry water for the teachers’ unions and school boards and declare war on charter schools. Edwards has filed HB 21 which would bar BESE from allowing charter schools in school districts that score an “A” or “B” in district accountability ratings.
On the surface, Edwards’s bill is not objectionable. Parishes and communities with high performing schools are happy with their school boards and public school systems. Why should BESE have the power to ruin them?
Just because a school district as an “A” or “B” rating in accountability ratings doesn’t mean there are terrible schools in the district that can use a challenge from charter schools. For example, let’s use my home parish of St. Tammany. For years it has had among the best public schools in Louisiana. The parish always scored well in assessments, but there are still some terrible schools.
In the most recent school and district assessments, St. Tammany Parish scored an “A.” Some schools in the parish though are on the decline and are mediocre at best. Here’s a graph, courtesy of the Times-Picayune, of the most recent school assessments.
The link to the TP article has a much larger version of the graph. Although, thankfully, there were no “D” or “F” schools in the parish, there quite a few “C” schools. Most of those “C” schools are clustered in poorer and majority black sections of Slidell. Most of these schools can use some competition from a charter school system. This will give these students a chance to attend schools as good as the others in the wealthier parts of Slidell and Mandeville.
The phenomenon of great performing school districts having terrible and mediocre schools is not just a St. Tammany problem, it’s a problem you will find all across Louisiana. The question is, why does John Bel Edwards want to trap these kids in mediocre and failing schools? The answer is simple, he’s doing this for the teachers’ unions and the school boards whose support he’s counting for his bid for governor. If school choice and reform opponents can stop and even reverse the momentum in this state for charter schools and school choice, it will make it easier to roll back education reform.
Charter schools may provide some education choices that are not offered by public schools. Some parents may want to send their children to a school that focuses on tougher discipline or is geared more towards the arts. Such niche charter schools have become a very popular option in may parts of the country. Why should these schools that want to be different be shut out of any parish?
Thankfully, HB 21 has almost no chance of passage this year. The education committees in both houses of the legislature are still pro-reform and pro-school choice. Even if the legislation somehow passes the legislature, the bill will certainly be vetoed by Governor Bobby Jindal.
The bill though does give an insight into what a future John Bel Edwards administration would have in store for the state. It would be the old Louisiana Democrat way of putting bureaucrats and unions over the people of Louisiana.