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LA House puts politics ahead of improving education

Not much good has come out of the 2005 hurricane disasters in Louisiana, but an increased realization of the benefits of school vouchers, if not their implementation, can come from it – if enough politicians have the courage to embrace such a program.

HB 301 by state Rep. Tim Burns would create a state-subsidized voucher program benefiting students in Orleans Parish who did or would have attended schools deemed failing academically through state accountability standards or one of the school swept up into the Recovery District now running the vast majority of schools theoretically existing in Orleans Parish (even as many have failed to reopen). It would permit students essentially a free education at any school, including private ones, that meet certain stringent criteria.

Passage of this bill certainly would facilitate the repopulation of New Orleans; private schools have opened much more quickly than public ones in wake of the hurricanes, and undeniably have outperformed them for years. If displaced families with children that would qualify knew of this, they would have much greater incentive to return home.

And the advantages of improving standards thus results for students who both leave a school by voucher and those who stay, brought about by increased competition from increased access to nonpublic schools do not have to be confined to Orleans Parish. The bill explicitly terms its program “pilot” in nature, with it to last four years. Success logically would allow for its spread to the entire state.

This has been realized even by those whose allies have opposed voucher programs in the past. When a local official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, whose national organization has gone on the record opposing voucher programs that expand choice for public school students, argues for them, the compelling nature of the argument certainly has taken hold.

Of course, the educational establishment, with voucher programs clearly illuminating its lack of competence, obfuscates the essential truth of them with specious arguments. When a school superintendent says something like “no one has done more for children of dysfunctional homes than public schools,” you now either this person is ignorant of the latest research in education or wants to cover up the fact that voucher programs (and other school choice programs) work for students of all demographic characteristics in order to insulate the greater effort a competing voucher program would present to his organization.

Unfortunately, while the bill initially received 52 votes (almost all in opposition being Democrats) in the House two-thirds affirmative or 70 were required. A motion again yesterday failed to get the requisite support, and the bill now languishes. It’s just another sign about how too many politicians in Louisiana would rather protect favored constituencies and fiefdoms that seriously entertain improving the quality of life in the state.

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