By Gene Mills
Gov. Bobby Jindal released the details of what the Wall Street Journal has called “the most significant and sweeping education reform in American history.”
The Constitutional charge answered in the Gov. Jindal Education Reform revisits the original goal of public education enumerated in Article 8 of the Louisiana Constitution: “The goal of the public educational system is to provide learning environments and experiences, at all stages of human development, that are humane, just, and designed to promote excellence in order that every individual may be afforded an equal opportunity to develop to his full potential.”
The moral imperative “to train a child in the way he should go” is respected in Gov. Jindal’s Education Package and answers, in part, the injustice of unequal opportunities. Dr. Wayne Grudem in Politics According to the Bible called “the permanent economic underclass, created by a lack of educational skills resulting in reduced earning capacity for life”—one of the greatest moral issues of our day!
Today, Louisiana spends $3.41 billion dollars on K-12 education, local government throws in another $2.5 billion and the Federal government adds to that equation with over $2 billion more. That’s nearly $9 billion spent annually to “educate” roughly 700,000 children, achieving the unfortunate 2011 ALEC national ranking of 49th in Achievement/Performance.
Gov. Jindal’s reform only addresses roughly $1 billion of the MFP that is directed toward currently failing schools. Forty-four percent of Louisiana public schools have received a D or F letter grade by operating a school where two-thirds of their students are at or below grade level.
To be certain, the breakdown of the traditional family is central to the educational predicament that Louisiana schools find themselves in. Reconciliation of the parent-child relationship, especially with regard to the “educational, moral, ethical, and religious training…and the discipline of the child” is foundational to any long-term solution.
For decades, educators of all varieties have heralded the need to involve and engage parents in their children’s education. Gov. Jindal’s Education Package finally proposes just that and more efficiently than any reform currently proposed.
Some voices, such as Melissa Flournoy of LA Budget Project, have echoed opposition. Central to their argument is the mistaken belief that “public financing of private education requires ‘accountability and testing’ similar to that which burdens the public system.” On the surface, that cry appears reasonable, but opposition and appearances are designed to redirect.
Accountability does exist in private sector education though: Parents decide success and failure in private education, and parents exercise their God given authority to direct the educational options for their child rather than an unrelated third party “expert” who specializes in systems. According to Gov. Jindal’s proposal, testing requirements exist too. Students who receive the scholarship program will be subject to the same LEAP test previous counterparts are subject to. The separation of children from state control is central to the individual success and the brilliance behind Gov. Jindal’s proposal!
Missing from the calls for “private–school accountability” is the moral reason why we are having this debate–the chronic failure of the current education system to fulfill its constitutional and moral responsibility to Louisiana children. Private education does not share its public counterpart’s history of decades of public funding, or perpetual shortfall. In fact, when a private school fails, it quickly liquidates and goes out of business.
When a public school fails, it gets a letter grade, a very recent development, a four- year grace period and time to organize its lobby, unions and some employees to obscure the “facts of their failure.” Unfortunately, when a school fails, the taxpayers don’t get a refund, parents don’t get zip code restrictions lifted, and the children still earn a 180-day sentence to keep appearing at their “failing” school.
I am of the impression that the cries for accountability and testing are a “poison pill” designed to cripple the Jindal education reform package. No church-run school would or should adopt the onerous and unproductive edicts, mandates, standards, test, philosophies, fees or red tape that so-called “accountability” imposes.
At worst this package of bills to some “big government bureaucrats” is a unique opportunity to pull a “hostile takeover” of religious and private education. The cry for “accountability” is misdirected. It is designed to stop “choice” or takeover private schools, but neither objective will receive the support of Louisiana’s faith community.
Gov. Jindal’s fact sheet spells out his plan. Lawmakers will be asked to consider the children not the systems of old.
Gov. Jindal’s education plan is deserving of our support. It’s time for the opposition to stand down while parents, pastors and principled policy makers fix this mess.
Gene Mills is president of Louisiana Family Forum, an organization committed to defending faith, freedom and the traditional family in the great state of Louisiana.