Education for all

Krewe de Bonne Terre moves parade to Sunday
February 5, 2016
Mardi Gras morning hit and run proves fatal
February 10, 2016

We’ll never achieve the Louisiana we all want without dramatically improving education for all our children. One huge part of that equation is giving parents the ability and the option to get their kids out of failing schools and into a better school. Many call that “school choice.” I call it common sense.

I truly believe that education is our biggest, most important long-term crisis. Improving K-12 education is absolutely vital for Louisiana’s future. My wife Wendy and I have 4 kids – and building the absolute best Louisiana for them and their future children is what drives us. The core to achieving that goal is empowering parents with choice for their children’s education.

What is school choice? Choice means empowering parents to make the best education decisions for their children. Parents should have the ability to choose between a public school, a charter school, a private school, or a homeschool program, and no child’s future should ever be determined by zip code. Expanding educational options also allows parents to hold schools accountable for their performance rather than trapping them in a failing school with no other options available.

This week is National School Choice Week, a week where we can all celebrate opportunity in education. I’m not just honoring the week, I’m taking action too.

I have pending legislation called the Expanding School Choice Act, which would allow federal education funding dedicated to serving low-income students to follow those students to their public school or a private school of their choice. Too often, children are trapped in a public school that doesn’t adequately serve their needs, but they don’t have the financial option to attend a private school. This bill will change that and allow parents and students to make the right choice for their education.

Throughout the past year, I’ve also worked to expand Louisiana preschool programs, secured an option for Louisiana to opt-out of the Common Core curriculum, and introduced legislation to make it easier for families to choose homeschooling as an educational option by providing tax deductions for homeschooling expenses.

The good news is we’re seeing results. The growth in charter schools and Louisiana’s school voucher program have clearly improved educational achievement across the state. Look at New Orleans for an example. Pre-Katrina, there were only five charter schools, 37 percent of high school graduates enrolled in college, and the average school performance score was 51.

Ten years later, the number of charter schools in the city has increased to 112, 59 percent of high school graduates are enrolling in college, and the average school performance score is 83! These are obviously huge and noteworthy improvements.

Despite these results, there is still a long way to go. While traditional public education has and continues to successfully serve thousands of students each year, it is clear that new, innovative education options that empower parents and students can truly change lives.

During National School Choice Week, let’s all remember that we cannot surrender to the status quo. For the sake of our children and Louisiana’s future, let’s put common sense to use and embrace school choice. •