Last year, a New York Times article about alleged abuses at a little bitty school in Breaux Bridge, T.M. Landry, almost closed the school. Why did the newspaper do this? Students there were using YouTube to express the gratitude they felt when their high ACT scores were announced and when seniors received scholarships to some of the highest-ranked universities in America. The Times paid little attention to the education the students received compared to the amount of print given to the allegations of abuse. These allegations are under investigation by the State Police. However, it is still baffling to me what was ignored — that 80% of the school’s students who have gone to top universities have either graduated or are still in school doing well. These results prove the students are capable of doing excellent work. Additionally, the current total of scholarship awards for the seniors is $2.3 million.
I have come to a horrible conclusion: We often say such controversies are about the children, but in reality, they are not. We say Louisiana is on the bottom of a lot of bad lists, but we may want to stay there. We say we need an educated, trained workforce, but maybe not for everyone. The thing I have learned about education is simple: The more money you have the better the opportunities. Of course, the recent college admissions scandal involving schemes to get children in certain schools proves that point.
Poor and minority children are caught in a system that may be failing large numbers of them, and when an opportunity arises where poor and minority children really beat the odds, then we set out to discredit that school. In our state, if we polled our population and asked how many Harvard, Yale, Stanford, NYU, MIT, etc. minority graduates we have, I believe the number would be abysmal. When we have the chance to make sure minority and poor students succeed, we kill the institution. How can we ever get off the bottom of some lists if we are constantly crying foul of anyone who succeeds in changing this picture?
The Times article was one-sided, and it has proven to be harmful to minority and poor students. It appears that The Times did not want to hear good, positive information, and the results is a loss in student enrollment and putting the school in financial distress.
former president, Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Editor's note: This article was changed to reflect a headline error in an earlier version identifying T.M. Landry as a charter school, which it is not.