According to Caroline Roemer Shirley, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools (guest commentary Jan. 21) failure is necessary. It is what drives the wheels of charter law in Louisiana. A child and her parents are not burdened when a charter experiment fails two years into elementary school and that child’s educational future is turned upside down.
Children whose parents lack the wherewithal to make appropriate choices are an inconvenient truth whose presence is too insignificant to consider in the geometry of “parental options.” Teachers’ organizations and school boards that advocate on behalf of children in existing school systems are disingenuous and, therefore, should relent and accept that failure is an option. “Autonomy, choice and accountability” is, according to the Baton Rouge establishment, the gold standard for public education.
I submit to Roemer Shirley an alternative theory regarding what we as parents in Louisiana want for our children. We want our community schools to act corroboratively and efficiently, we want our public school tax dollars to stay in our communities and be subject to scrutiny by the neighbors we entrust with our money. We want our children to be educated in schools that don’t require them to compete with their friends in other schools for resources and a quality education. And we want commitments by every level of bureaucracy that they will work so that every child has an equal opportunity to fulfill his or her educational potential. The only way to do that is to believe in and be faithful to the idea that failure is not an option.
We must advocate for all children, not just those who happen to make the “right choice.” Louisiana charter school law has put Louisiana’s individual school districts at war with themselves. Residents within parishes are now fighting each other for students, resources, and parental and community engagement.
As a parent, taxpayer, and public school advocate, I reject the future that Roemer Shirley envisions for Louisiana’s public schools, that failure is a necessary option. We can do better than the tired mantra of “empowerment.” It’s time to take back our local systems from a Baton Rouge establishment that appears to know very little about what parents really want — success for every child.
Kathleen Schott Espinoza
board member, Power of Public Education Lafayette