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Superintendents prefer to protect interests, not educate

As if more confirmation was needed, that Louisiana’s school superintendents are complaining about a legal change regarding school financing once again demonstrates they seem more interested in acquiring power and privilege for their agencies than in educating children.

A recent change of law now directs a proportion of locally-generated operating funds to charter schools in any of Louisiana’s 69 local school districts, away from the district. Previously, only state funds that would have gone to the district were shunted away. Of course, this has perturbed a number of these districts’ superintendent who are complaining that they now aren’t getting money for students their traditional schools aren’t educating.

If that appears somewhat farcical, get a load of the comments made by the president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, one of their own: “It’s kind of like the Boston Tea Party all over again,” said Gary Jones, superintendent of schools in Rapides Parish. “It’s taxation without representation.”

That remark leaves no doubt that Jones, if he came from the teaching ranks, never was a history or government teacher. Citizens do have representation in this matter – they voted for state legislators and the governor who made the decisions to change the law. Further, since the people’s representatives did approve of the matter, to argue there is a lack of representation suggests that the locus of the thing lacking representation in the mind of Jones is not the people, but the school districts themselves.

But Jones and the other complaining superintendents seem to forget the Louisiana Constitution in all of this. Art. VIII Sec. 1 says it is the Legislature that is to “provide for the education of the people of the state and shall establish and maintain a public educational system.” Also, Art. VIII Sec. 10 states that “parish and city school board systems … are recognized, subject to control and supervision by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the power of the legislature to enact laws affecting them.”

In other words, these districts act as agents to the state for the purposes of education. Further, any money they receive as a result of lawful revenue-producing actions by the Legislature or its agents the districts is the people’s money, not theirs. All the people care about is that education occurs; there is no mandated way that money must be apportioned among state agencies in order for it to occur beyond what the Constitution says about the matter, which is that it’s ultimately in the hands of the Legislature.

This explains why the argument about the impermissibility of charter schools getting dollars raised by a local government even when rejected as charter schools by that local government also fails. Most charter schools exist today (outside of the Recovery School District) because the state had to approve them after they were rejected at the local level – rejected usually precisely because the local districts saw them as threats to them and other special interests like unions rather than evaluated them as a different kind of and perhaps better agent besides traditional public schools to help educate children. Again, education is a state, not local, responsibility so if the state’s agent overrides a local decision where so empowered, it should have the right to redirect dollars attendant to the decision addressing the function in question.

Understand the basic dynamic going on here: districts do not like charter schools because they know these are more committed to providing quality education than are they, who put too much emphasis on keeping cozy relations with special interests like unions and in maintaining the existing bureaucratic and political structures and power relations. Their arguments on this issue merely reflect this attitude and in the end remind us of as a consequence of the actions stemming from such mindsets why public education in Louisiana remains, in both absolute and comparative senses, insufficient and subpar.


Anonymous said...

Just like you'd be complaining if the state decided to syphon money away from LSUS and give it to Centenary because Centenary has a better academic reputation.

Methinks you are once again a world class hypocrite, Dr. Sadow.

Chinquapin said...

"Syphon?" Obviously a product of our underperforming public schools.

As well, your LSUS/Centenary analogy is flawed in that Centenary is a private university. Charter schools are public institutions and as such fully deserving of public money.

The entrenched school district establishment is doing an abysmal job of educating all our children, and they fear and loathe competition. Charters are here to stay, and they may as well get used to the idea.

Anonymous said...

Obviously Chinquapin is not aware that "syphon" is a variant and acceptable spelling for "siphon", especially for scientists, and perhaps we should ask where Chinquapin went to school. Actually, the "analogy" is quite accurate in more than one way, since many charters are actually being managed by private companies drawing away tax dollars.... and in fact IF you do the actual financials, as some of us have... if you placed 68% of students currently in Louisiana public schools (under the current funding mechanisms) there would be no money left to educate the remaining students in "regular" public schools.... If you have questions about how this is possible... talk to any superintendent....