By Daniel Erspamer
Louisiana students and parents have faced countless challenges over the past year. From uncertainties surrounding in-person classroom instruction to navigating the ins and outs of virtual learning, these difficulties have reinforced an important fact – our state must take major steps toward empowering families with options to pursue educational opportunities that work for them.
This Monday, National School Choice Week kicked off. Through tens of thousands of events and activities held each January, School Choice Week shines a spotlight on effective education options for children and is the world’s largest celebration of opportunity in K-12 education. School choice means giving every family, regardless of their income or zip code, the ability to choose the learning environment that best fits the needs of each child.
By empowering Louisiana parents, we can provide every child with a high-quality education while also fostering our state’s future workforce and preparing every child to pursue the post-high school opportunities of their choosing. This is exactly why the Pelican Institute released a comprehensive policy roadmap to expand school choice programs in Louisiana last fall.
From expanding virtual charters to implementing education savings accounts to encouraging the creation of micro/pod schools, there are many solutions on the table to empower Louisiana families to find schools that meet the educational needs of their children.
School choice programs can also take many other forms. For example, children in smaller, more rural communities greatly benefit from Course Choice initiatives, which allow them to attend classes that their school districts might not have access to. Meanwhile, charter schools are also offering many communities a path to solve local problems and provide families with high-quality public school alternatives.
It’s also critical that we foster high-quality career and technical educational programs. Despite the robust job market in many areas of the country, firms are reporting difficulty when it comes to finding qualified workers. By implementing these programs, we would ensure that businesses have the skills the next generation of workers will need, while also giving students who complete these programs a fast track from their schooling right into well-paid careers.
Before COVID-19, it was already clear that not every school in Louisiana worked for every child. And it appears the learning gap is widening even further. Just last week, school officials announced reading scores have dipped once again. Louisiana is spending more than $13,000 per student every year. This amount is not only more than a traditional private school tuition in our state, it is also much more than what our successful neighbors are spending per student. For example, Florida is spending less than $10,000 per student and yielding much stronger outcomes for students.
The school choice roadmap tackles all of these challenges head-on while also seeking to refocus Louisiana’s education system on the children who depend upon it. We must put in the work to bring these solutions to the forefront of the education discussion. By working together towards this common goal, we can provide schools that fit for all Louisiana families.
Despite some progress made on expanding options in recent years, the fact remains that many Louisiana children remain trapped in failing schools, with predictable consequences – a cycle of poverty, crime and lost opportunity. It’s time to make the changes we need to empower all parents to obtain the best education for their children.
We can accomplish this by growing and investing in our school choice programs in Louisiana to ensure we are offering a large selection of quality options for families. Together, we can provide all Louisiana kids with schools that truly fit their needs.
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.