America’s education system has been broken for a very long time. The just-released Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, results show students in the United States continuing to fall behind their international peers, with scores declining in math, and stagnant in science and reading. We cannot stay on this path.
That is just one of the many reasons I enthusiastically support Betsy DeVos’ nomination as secretary of education. I have seen first-hand the positive impact of the education reforms she has promoted for well over 20 years. This is an unprecedented opportunity in our nation’s history to make good on decades of unfulfilled promises to our children.
Betsy DeVos’ commitment to school choice options has helped transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, including those in my home state of Louisiana. When I was elected to the state Senate in 2004, New Orleans faced an education disaster. Most public schools were unsafe and underperforming, the local school board focused on contracts instead of kids, and a parent’s only real educational option was to pay to send their children to a private school.
The turnaround of public education in New Orleans has been well documented. Thanks to school choice initiatives, New Orleans parents now have the option to vote with their feet and select the best schools for their children.
Today, school choice is the norm in New Orleans. Attendance zones that determine where students enroll have been eliminated. Parents are no longer locked into a school that doesn’t fit their children’s needs based only on their ZIP code. Charter schools now serve 92 percent of the city’s public school students.
This transformation extends to the rest of the state, with Louisiana schools showing improvement on nearly every student achievement measure. Standardized test scores have increased by more than 10 percentage points since 2013, while the high school graduation rate reached an all-time high in 2016. In the past five years, we have seen the achievement gap between Louisiana Scholarship Program students’ scores and the statewide public school average cut almost in half.
School choice is giving hope to thousands of low-income and minority families. Access to charter schools and the Louisiana Scholarship Program is making it possible for all parents to choose the education that best fits their children’s individual needs — a choice more affluent parents take for granted.
The revival of Louisiana’s education system would not be possible without reforms enacted by a bipartisan coalition of legislators who recognize the status quo is not working and parents deserve access to the best schools.
As chairman of the American Federation for Children, Betsy DeVos supported these reforms which have given Louisiana's most vulnerable students access to life-changing school choice options. I am confident she will do the same for children and families across the country.
president, Louisiana Federation for Children