When lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal go to the voters in this fall’s campaign, they will be talking about education. But when they promise to make education their top priority in office, they will have to answer for their records.
They have much to answer for.
In an election season, that lawmakers and the governor froze the basic state aid package to public schools for the third year in a row doesn’t have a positive ring to it.
A liberal group, Remapping Debate, prepared a chart showing the 10 states with the lowest median household income — in other words, those where schools are by definition going to have more trouble raising revenue at the local level, and thus will be more dependent on state aid.
Louisiana is second on the list, behind only West Virginia.
The Legislature this year provided no net increase in aid to local schools. But systems argue that costs go up for benefits and the number of students rose.
The Coalition for Public Education, a Louisiana group that boosts traditional public school systems, released a long list of cutbacks being made in parishes across the state, including East Baton Rouge, West Feliciana and Livingston districts.
In the course of a national recession, the argument will be that Louisiana weathered the storm without catastrophic losses endured by states where the housing bust hammered state and local revenue. But given that Louisiana was 49th in most measures of educational outcomes, does “not the worst” amount to a policy that voters will be happy with? In improving public education, money isn’t everything. But as in most forms of human endeavor, money helps more than it hurts. Cutbacks, even gentle declines compared with some other states, aren’t results to be proud of.