SADOW: The Worse The Schools, The Less Likely The Folks Are To Support Change

Not only do the just-released school and district accountability scores in Louisiana speak to the educational quality and pace of improvement within the state’s elementary and secondary education, these also illuminate how many Louisianans vote against their own self-interests.

The state’s Department of Education announced yesterday the scores, which federal law requires that it computes. Overall, these showed improvement from 2018, particularly among worse-performing schools. Tempering that good news, about 17 percent of schools ended up classified as “struggling,” while 44 percent had at least one student sub-population of interest classified as that.

However, out of all of this comes a fascinating nugget of electoral and political importance. A relationship exists between the quality of a school district and vote in the 2019 gubernatorial general election. Specifically, the worse the schools perform, the more votes for Democrats in that election.

Using a technique known as linear regression, for every point higher a district accountability score was, vote for a Democrat dropped about 0.6 percent. That explains around 17 percent of the parish results (Since three parishes have multiple districts with widely varying scores, another regression was performed excluding these; the resulting statistics and coefficients differed little from the analysis by undivided parishes).

More interestingly, these results achieved through policies adopted by majority Republican legislatures, promulgated by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and overseen by Superintendent John White, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards (who garnered 98 percent of votes for Democrats on Oct. 12) stridently has opposed. Despite many calls to reverse these, Edwards had next to no luck in watering down any past reforms during the departing Legislature. Additionally, a majority of BESE members – even with Edwards three appointees – education establishment special interests allied with him have opposed, and Edwards himself expressed a desire to terminate White’s contract.

So, this becomes a fascinating exercise in how people can vote against policies that benefit themselves and their community. The agenda of accountability, underpinned by strategic rewards and punishments for districts and personnel guided by their objective performances and encouraged by promotion of choice, shows to be paying off. Yet the very districts that have performed the worst, which would imply they should favor the most something that shows every indication of changing that status for the better, are by their choices of gubernatorial candidates the most likely to favor subverting that very goal.

Why do they do it? The inferior nature of the schools from which undoubtedly large portions of the populations derived their educations likely contributed. Less likely to want to acquire knowledge and to think critically, they become more susceptible to misinformation and demagogic appeals that have been the staple of Louisiana’s populist left for decades. With the left’s primary goal of command and control over populations, superior education interferes with its ability to manipulate the electorate.

Simply put, residents generally in districts with better schools have better ability to understand the linkage between candidates’ issue preferences and the changes which make for better schools than those who live in districts with typically inferior schools, data from the 2019 gubernatorial show. If Edwards wants to win reelection, he has to hope the relative disconnection remains sufficiently amplified.

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