Commentary: Louisiana Leading the Way in Education Reform
It’s been an uplifting legislative session in many ways for advocates of school choice and education reform in Louisiana. The Senate Education Committee shot down HB 658, proposed by Sen. ‘Butch’ Gautreaux, which would have required charter schools to place their teachers under the TRSL program. The Pelican Institute has previously documented the failings of TRSL in an extensive report, so the bill’s defeat was welcome news. In addition, HB 1033, introduced by Rep. Frank Hoffman (R-West Monroe), which would allow for teachers to be evaluated in part on student test performance, cleared the House.
The most recent good news was the House approval of HB 1368, authored by Jane Smith (R-Bossier City). The crux of Smith’s bill is that it gives public schools freedoms and flexibility normally associated with charter schools. Within the bill, school superintendents would be able to request waivers for one or more schools, exempting them from certain state laws regulating public schools, such as instituting unique standards of accountability, teacher evaluation, standards, classroom size, and curriculum, among others. As Smith’s bill would give individual schools the option of breaking away from the monolithic status quo of public education, expect the process to provoke a furious reaction from teachers’ unions. However, if implemented efficiently, this process will be a boon for public education in the state of Louisiana.
The fact that this bill passed with such relative ease (68-20) is especially heartening considering the besieged state of school choice around the country. With the Obama administration’s complicity in drying out the funding for Washington D.C.’s successful voucher program, coupled with the transformation on teachers unions into implacably greedy juggernauts in California and New York, school choice is being put on the defensive. Fortunately Louisiana is doing the right thing by focusing on the interests of our students and promoting competition in our schools. Hopefully, other parts of the country can stand up to the unions and do the same.