John Bel Edwards had a basic problem when he began running for governor last year. Edwards’ connections and record marked him as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Louisiana’s teacher unions, which had been supporters throughout his eight years in the legislature and for whom he consistently carried water. Edwards knew he had to maintain that relationship if he was going to raise enough money to make a real run at the office, and in order to do that he had to keep a promise he’d made long ago – namely, that if elected he’d scale back the 2012 education reforms passed by the Jindal administration, and in particular the expansion of charter schools and educational vouchers contained in those reforms which have built a small but competitive educational market in some places around Louisiana.
But carrying water for the teacher unions on the school choice issue came at a price, that being the fact that as a Democrat Edwards’ richest hotbed of votes would come in Orleans Parish and the black community therein – and Orleans Parish happens to be the epicenter of school choice in Louisiana, with a thriving voucher program and a vast array of charter schools set up after Hurricane Katrina had destroyed the failed traditional school system in New Orleans that was the worst in the country. Coming out strongly against vouchers and charters and promising to roll them back as governor, which his teacher union donors wanted, would cost him votes among the parents of voucher and charter kids in the Big Easy.
Edwards managed to solve the problem by doing what politicians usually do. He lied to the people in New Orleans, saying that if he was governor he wouldn’t do anything to negatively affect charters and vouchers where they were, and then he spent the rest of the campaign talking about hookers David Vitter had lain with 15 years earlier.
As we know, that worked, Edwards was elected and as soon as he was inaugurated he proceeded to back every legislative effort to kill school choice in the state. Edwards went even further, proposing in his budget to cut $6 million in funding for educational vouchers – essentially putting more 1,200 kids back into bad public schools they don’t want to be in that actually cost taxpayers more than the vouchers do – and another $8 million in funding for non-public schools for things like transportation and textbooks.
How do the school choice people feel about that? Not great. A press release out this morning from the Louisiana Federation for Children…
The Louisiana Federation for Children (LFC), the state’s voice for educational choice, has released a new television advertisement with Louisiana parents asking why Governor John Bel Edwards is breaking his promise to them by drastically cutting the budget of the Louisiana Scholarship Program.
The ad features three mothers who have children enrolled in private schools that participate in the Louisiana Scholarship Program. One of them says of the governor, “He lied to me. He lied to my child.”
“In his State of the State address, Governor Edwards said he wanted to provide a choice to parents whose children are trapped in failing schools. He said the same thing to voters on several occasions while campaigning,” said Ann Duplessis, president of the Louisiana Federation for Children.
The Times-Picayune/NOLA.com reported on Dec. 15, 2015, that “Edwards doesn’t want to ban vouchers or take them away from students who receive them now.”
However, Governor Edwards broke that commitment and proceeded to propose a drastic reduction in funding for the Louisiana Scholarship Program in the administration’s executive budget. This proposed cut means an estimated 1,000 students would be eliminated from the scholarship program.
During the House Appropriations Committee hearing on April 12, the governor included $36 million in House Bill 1 to fund the Scholarship program. This is far below the current budget amount of $42 million and less than the $47 million needed.
“A 14-percent cut to the Louisiana Scholarship Program will cause hundreds of families who currently receive scholarships to have to find a way to pay tuition or be forced to return to underperforming public schools,” Duplessis added.
“Governor Edwards must not be allowed to reverse the important K-12 education reforms of the past decade. LFC will fight relentlessly on behalf of parents to preserve and grow the program that allows low-income families to choose how their children are educated.”
The six-figure ad buy will run on Baton Rouge television and radio, and will include a substantial digital media component.
To learn more about how John Bel Edwards is failing Louisiana’s children, visit JohnBelFailedUs.com.
Louisiana Scholarship Program Facts:
- The Louisiana Scholarship Program was created in 2008 by a bipartisan group of legislators and was expanded statewide in 2012, again with significant bipartisan support.
- 100% of the program students come from low-income families assigned to poorly-performing or failing schools.
- 88.6% of students participating in the program are minorities.
- The Louisiana Department of Education’s 2015 Louisiana Nonpublic School Choice Annual Reportfinds that students using the Louisiana Scholarship Program are making significant academic gains – closing the achievement gap with the statewide average by almost half (44 percent gap reduction) over the last five years for students in grades 3-8 achieving at least “Basic” proficiency.
Here’s the ad, which is going to be all over the tube and radio in Baton Rouge…
Today’s Quote Of The Day, if you haven’t seen it, is from Sen. Bill Cassidy, and he notes that this deep red state is feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse over Edwards’ election. The governor’s war on school choice is a perfect example of that – particularly given Edwards’ having set himself up as the candidate replete with honesty and integrity last year when he clearly doesn’t fit that bill in office.