John Bel Edwards has really made a whole lot of unforced errors when it comes to education. It all started with campaign promises he made to the teacher unions, school boards, universities, and other education special interests. Namely, that he’d do away with vouchers, charters, and school choice in general. Then, this legislative season came and went and SURPRISE he didn’t get any of it killed, really.
What happened next is a bit murkier, since Edwards has a history of not really making things public. What we know is that TOPS isn’t going to be fully funded, and the voucher program has taken a huge hit – so huge, in fact, that enough people called their legislators and made it a bigger news story than Edwards was perhaps hoping for.
Here’s the thing about TOPS and the voucher program – the schools themselves get funded with or without them. No one in the state is really all that interested in shutting down schools so much as they are for improving the lives of children and their families. That’s why these specific attacks – both on TOPS and on the vouchers – are so important to take a closer look at.
See, for all intents and purposes, the vouchers and TOPS are pretty much the same thing. You get money from the state to go to a school of your choice. That’s not really debatable, either. That’s the point of the programs. You are giving kids their best shot at a good education and you are letting the children and their families make those choices. The universities and the school boards, who would prefer to get that money directly, don’t like that. School boards across the state are, in fact, getting more money, and you are really reading about universities taking a big cut this year, are you?
No, what you’re hearing is noise coming from the families, because Edwards has taken money away from them to give to his biggest supporters. Why? Because he wasn’t able to give them anything else they wanted.
Look at the Every Student Succeeds Act panel he’s cobbled together. It is pretty much a direct challenge to John White, who is a big booster of school choice. Edwards has now established a panel to come up with their own recommendations on how to bring Louisiana in line with ESSA guidelines, and it’s not difficult to guess how they’re going to rule. They’re going to say plans like the voucher program and expanding charter schools are taking valuable resources from the state and the schools, therefore they should be eliminated and attention turned back to the schools themselves.
Which is what the school boards and teacher unions want. School choice is, after all, a direct challenge to how things are run. If public schools are forced to compete and improve, many could end up failing. But if there is no real challenge, then there’s less accountability. It’s not some evil plan to horde all the money and power so much as it is laziness on their part. The way things have always been is what’s gotten Louisiana into the educational pit it’s in.
But, since certain programs have taken place, we are actually seeing improvement, statistically, and more will come… assuming Edwards and his plans can be foiled.
Since the legislature is not really full of fighters, though, it looks like we’re going to end up with four dark years before we can get a candidate who can push the right policies into and through the legislature. And, yes, the legislature is the important part to this – Edwards has done exactly as any Obama Democrat would do. When he didn’t get his way in the legislative session, he used an executive order to establish the ESSA panel.
Edwards and his supporters don’t want families to control where and how they get their education. They want the System to do it, and the System is far too concerned with itself. They must take money from the hands of the taxpayers and put it into the schools themselves rather than let families choose where it goes. You don’t get to choose. Let the State do it for you.