Thirty-two years ago, when I graduated from a Louisiana high school, our system was ranked 47th in the nation. Over the years since, we have moved down one spot. The question my friends and I asked then was, why don't we aspire to be like No. 1?
While the same might be asked today, I already know the reasons why we do not: politics and money. The law President Bill Clinton had passed at the end of his second term allows a 32% tax credit for anyone who invests in educating lower-income kids. The creation of publicly funded, privately operated charter schools has caused kids enrolled in traditional schools to remain largely ignored. This is because any time you involve politics, with money as the motivator, problems ensue. In New Orleans, the advent of charters was referred to as an experiment. In science, when experiments fail, they halt, and if they are retried, different methodologies are used.
Rather than monetizing education, and discounting those most in need, perhaps it is time for Louisiana to look at the best system in the country and begin emulating it immediately. Under our current system, which aspires to the status quo, we have set ourselves up for complete failure. All Louisiana kids deserve more. The Legislature could easily alter the standards for our superintendent and return power and autonomy to local boards. Poor education equates to poor economic development. The only way this changes is with fundamental change. What are we waiting for?