BESE member: Alternative diploma not the answer to state’s graduation woes

Eric John (Easy E) Matherne
June 16, 2009
June 18
June 18, 2009

Dear Editor:

No one disputes that the dropout rate is of significant concern. We knew that long before (SB 259 and HB 612).

The authors of the bill and Gov. Bobby Jindal, however, are still focused on the wrong issue. How we calculate the dropout rate is irrelevant.

The dropout rate is simply a symptom of the bigger problem: kids are not learning the basics.

They want to improve the statistics by coming up with a meaningless diploma. What good does that do?

The end result is a student who is not prepared to compete for a meaningful job that provides a living wage and benefits.

Rather than making difficult decisions that might lead to meaningful improvements in student outcomes – like school board reform, reconsideration of teacher tenure laws, more school choice and extended school days, for example – our state continues to try to find tricks to improve our standing.

And the reason they do not want to focus on meaningful issues is simple, and it is the reason our state continues and will continue to struggle: politics.

To take on issues that matter would mean to risk some political capital – something this administration seems unwilling to do.

If they prevail, perhaps we should just send a diploma to everyone in the state – even retroactively – and declare 100 percent graduation rates for the past 20 years.

Companies are choosing not to come to Louisiana because of our lack of a skilled workforce; it is not because of a lack of unskilled workers.

Our state can provide all the tax incentives and slush fund promotions to companies it wants, but until we educate our kids so they are prepared to compete in this century we will not attract jobs to this state.

I would ask the authors of this bill and the governor to come to a real discussion of education reform in our state – one that focuses on improving student outcomes rather than just giving false hope.

Chas Roemer,

BESE, District 6