This summer, I penned an article in response to a national study conducted about the ability of parents to address their child’s educational needs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The study revealed that when their child’s education was disrupted, many families simply did not have the ability to act and seek other educational options. As we near the midterm of the 2021-2022 school year, things appear to be stabilizing with the return to in-person schooling, and schools beginning to implement new interventions and supports thanks to billions in new federal dollars. That’s certainly good news and we’re hopeful for continued progress, but the narrative can be misleading.

Even before the pandemic, roughly two-thirds of Louisiana children were not performing on grade level, mastering basic foundational skills in reading and math. The pandemic then set them back another five percentage points, statewide. A deeper look into the data shows that families that are economically disadvantaged or have children with special needs are even farther behind. If their child is enrolled in a school that is helping them make progress toward their highest potential, that’s great. But what if they’re not? What if progress is taking too long? What if interventions aren’t working? What if school culture or other factors are preventing their child from thriving? The fact remains that too many families still have very few options, and if they have identified a potential new one, chances are financial and other barriers make that option impossible.

At Pelican, we’re working every day to empower families to give their child the educational experience that works for them. Looking back on 2021, we’re proud to have advocated for legislative changes that will increase parents’ access to information and empower them to take action. We supported legislation to increase school financial transparency, expand public and private school choice, and make school accountability ratings easier for families to understand.

Most recently, we’ve launched a new dashboard to help families better understand not only how their local schools perform relative to each other, but also relative to proficiency standards and national trends. Our work on these and other policy priorities to empower families will continue into 2022, and Pelican stands ready to work with policymakers and other stakeholders to offer solutions, ideas, and best practices. We believe that in order for Louisiana to thrive, we must have a high-quality public education system and expanded options for families in order to make every educational option a great one.

We urge our fellow Louisianans to join us in putting “empowering families” on your 2022 new year’s resolution list. We have a lot of work left to do, and our kids are counting on us.