Legislature left Louisiana paycheck to paycheck

Tillman talks Terrebonne, reflects on vital three terms
September 6, 2011
Thursday, Sept. 8
September 8, 2011

Dear Editor,

It is wrong to assume that anything done to our public schools under the title of education reform is a good thing.

I believe that the Louisiana education accountability system which started off as a good idea, has been hijacked by special interests who are pushing for the privatization of our public schools. Despite an aggressive PR campaign in favor of this movement there is no real evidence that this push to privatization is good for students, but there is plenty of evidence of harmful effects.

Our education accountability system in Louisiana allows for the takeover of low performing public schools by the state. But recent changes allow most of these school takeovers to be converted into charter schools.

These takeover charter schools can be a windfall for private individuals and groups who want to profit from school takeover. Some of the charter management organizations are run by groups who are poorly monitored and are allowed to skim an unspecified portion of our education tax dollars as profit. But even the non-profit charters are often organized by administrators who pay themselves big salaries with our tax money while hiring the cheapest and least experienced teachers.

Some say it does not matter who profits from charter schools as long as the students they serve finally get a great education.

As it turns out, for the most part, students in these takeover schools outside the New Orleans area are performing at a lower level than before the schools were taken over! For takeover schools in the New Orleans area, recent scandals and allegations of test cheating and grade changing by administrators are casting doubt even on the meager achievement gains claimed by these schools.

Recently, the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education was forced to terminate the charter of school in New Orleans where there was shown to be unreported sexual abuse of children. But there were many more allegations of wrong-doing reported by frustrated teachers at this and other takeover schools.

Following these revelations some of the whistle blowing teachers and one state official who reported the violations were fired. That does not look like the right kind of reform.

Unfortunately, the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education by a slight majority of one, has favored the continued state takeover of schools and expansion of these unproven charter schools.

Meanwhile, student performance has steadily improved in most regular public schools without sacrificing well rounded quality education. Even so, our governor and big business interests have announced that they intend to spend big money to help elect more members to BESE that will support the privatization agenda.

Such an agenda is not reform. It is misuse of our tax dollars.

Let’s insist that local public schools remain under local elected control and that corruption and profiteering be eliminated from our public schools.

Mike Deshotels,

Editor, The Louisiana Educator