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Veto session worthwhile to improve state education

Given recently-released results of state standardized testing, there should be no question at all that a veto session of the Louisiana Legislature should be called for the first time ever. Whether it will happen is another matter.

The Legislature is empowered to call itself into session to deal with gubernatorial vetoes, if more than half of the members of both chambers refuse to turn in a ballot to call off the session by a deadline, this year Aug. 2. Gov. Kathleen Blanco vetoed fewer than two dozen items from this regular session but she picked some controversial ones. The one with the largest monetary impact might be refusing to lop off a percentage of sales tax on utilities paid by business, who then passes this tax on to consumers.

But the veto with perhaps the longest-term, largest impact to the state was to prevent private school tuition payments receiving a tax credit, continuing the dual-payment system where some families have to pay public school taxes even though their children do not use them and must pay private school tuition to increase their children’s chances of receiving quality instruction. No doubt a tax break on private school tuition would encourage sending children to private schools.

And why not, given the stunning achievements of many of the schools similarly situated to private schools, charter schools, in Orleans Parish? Recent data shows many charter schools there, with often the same kind of student body as in years past when they were wholly public schools, posted extraordinary gains in student achievement on tests. While charter schools vary in some ways that they differ from public schools, two which make them like private schools are they have much greater freedom in personnel policies such as in hiring, promotions, and firings, and in pay policies such as in being able to offer merit pay.

Where typical public schools have failed in Orleans Parish charter schools have succeeded, so one small change to the state’s education landscape that would encourage education of this superior kind, the tax exemption, one would think would be embraced by those in the education profession. Wrong: perhaps the most strident opponents of the veto session because they fear the possibility of undoing the tax exemption veto are teachers unions and their allies in the public education sector.

Why would educators, seeing something that works, be so reflexively against it? Because the goal of teachers’ unions and their sycophants is not to provide the best education possible to students, but instead to transfer as much money as possible from the pockets of taxpayers into their pockets and those of their members. They know all too well that individual accountability measures helping charter schools improve education will impair their greedy impulses.

Of course, since it takes two-thirds vote to override a veto even if the session gets called that’s a tough standard to meet to get Blanco’s decision reversed. But realizing these test results shows at least the attempt through approving an override session should occur, even if for this reason alone.

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