The League of Women Voters of Louisiana recently published a two-year study on the governance, finance, and accessibility and equity of Louisiana’s charter schools. We would like to respond to Eva Kemp’s June 4 letter submitted to The Advocate on behalf of Democrats for Education Reform. The delivery of education is not a Democratic or Republican initiative; rather, it’s a community one. To frame the discussion in terms of political party oversimplifies the complex and personal nature of how families and communities care for children.
Democrats in Louisiana and across the country continue to stand for education reform — from increasing college affordability to restoring civi…
The League supports a careful examination of the issues confronting public education in Louisiana, where data on charter school performance is decidedly mixed. The way the state measures school performance such as graduation rates and standardized test benchmarks, has shifted over the years, muddying the picture of school success.
Over many decades Louisiana has developed a system of public and private schools and has grappled with equity, equality and racial justice issues — not yet successfully. Public charter schools and publicly funded vouchers for private schools have added a third and fourth school system to the existing mix of public and private schools. Ignoring the fiscal realities and the increasing racial segregation brought about by these multiple systems is missing the picture. To evaluate what charter school expansion does to communities one must assess the effects on overall public school budgets, on governance, and on access.
Kemp lauds the existence of urban charter systems across the country while failing to mention the challenges that many children and families living in these new types of school systems have endured. Tulane University’s Education Research Alliance for New Orleans produced a recent study that provides evidence of fiscal inefficiencies built into the charter school model. The findings indicate that administrative costs for charter school education in New Orleans have increased by over 60%, while spending in classrooms has dropped by 10%. Countless news reports have exposed problems with transportation, board corruption, and fiscal mismanagement in charter schools.
The effects on the ground of increased charter schools nationally has been to increase segregation of school populations. In our study, the League takes issue with lack of oversight in general and with respect to balanced enrollments across communities. It is the responsibility of government to ensure integrated places for learning. Federal desegregation orders are still in place in many districts across Louisiana. How charter school expansion affects attempts to mitigate imbalances in enrollment have not been adequately addressed locally or nationally.
The LWV of Louisiana urges informed discussion of public education. We invite the public to view our findings on our website.
Kathleen Schott Espinoza
education committee chair, League of Women Voters of Louisiana