Since Louisiana is in the news right now, as it braces for Hurricane Isaac, I thought this might be an opportune moment to feature Louisiana’s dramatic – and controversial – education reform initiatives.
Louisiana’s new laws will essentially give all parents an average of $8,500 to use for their child’s education as they see fit. They can keep their child in their local public school, but they can also try to get Johnny into a more demanding charter school, or a virtual school, or into special language or career-training courses, among other options.
Nearly 400,000 low-income children—a bit more than half of all students—will also be eligible for vouchers to attend private schools. State officials estimate that about 2,000 students will use vouchers this September given private-school capacity limits, but that tens of thousands will do so over time.
Louisiana is also making life easier for charter schools, with new authorizing boards, a fast-track for high-performing networks, and access to facilities equal to that of traditional public schools. The new laws seek to strengthen superintendents and principals over local school boards, which are bastions of bureaucratic and union intransigence.
Nearly as dramatic are reforms in teacher tenure. To earn tenure, teachers will now have to rate in the top 10% (measured in part by student performance) for five of six consecutive years, and any teacher who falls into the bottom 10% loses tenure. No teacher in the bottom 10% can get a raise, while layoffs will no longer hit the junior-most teachers first while ignoring performance.
I’ve posted on all these subjects before, so rather than repeat myself, let me share some links to articles that praise and condemn these initiatives. As we learn more about how well these experiments are working, I’ll publish updates.
Here’s a highly favorable account:
Here’s a more mixed review:
And here’s a highly negative review: