Louisiana is not supporting taxpayers, public school parents, school employees and public schools. That’s the clear message from the recent state legislative session.
Traditional public education, administered by democratically elected officials, is under assault from Baton Rouge. For four years, Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Legislature have made state funding for private school vouchers in New Orleans and funding for schools in the state’s Recovery School District a greater priority than equitable funding for all other public schools in Louisiana. Preferential state funding for these two items alone approaches $100 million.
Meanwhile, local public school districts are absorbing the costs of unfunded state mandates, transportation of nonpublic students, LEAP remediation, stipends for board-certified employees, increasing retirement contributions. Funding for the successful preschool program has been cut. These state actions directly increase class sizes, lengthen bus routes, reduce early childhood classes, lessen curriculum offerings, delay facility repairs and result in teacher layoffs all over the state while the Legislature showers Recovery School District schools with extra funding.
What do the state taxpayers have for their investment in Recovery School District schools and private school vouchers? Not much.
Test results from private school students on vouchers show below-average performance. After five years and extra funding, Recovery School District continues to educate children in failing schools. The RSD ranks last in the state. Where’s the accountability to taxpayers throughout the state who foot the bill for the RSD? Where’s the level playing field for all public schools?
The Coalition for Louisiana Public Education believes it is crucial that all Louisiana children be given equal funding and an equal opportunity to receive a high-quality education. They deserve no less.
Very little was done in the recent legislative session to benefit the majority of Louisiana’s children. Much was done to promote and sustain the growing special interests of a few.
Professional educators - the real “reformers” - remain optimistic that Louisiana’s children reach their greatest potential when our state officials begin to act on their responsibility to support all children, no matter their wealth or ZIP code.
Equitable support for public education for all children is the best investment any state can make.
Mary K. Bellisario, member
St. Tammany Parish School Board and The Coalition for Louisiana Public Education