COMMENTARY: State Partner Fights For Choice in LA

From The Shreveport Times:

When we think of building from the bottom up, there are some things we simply cannot deny, such as New Orleans’ diligent efforts to rebirth education through innovation and school choice after Hurricane Katrina silenced public education as it once was known in that area.

For years, New Orleans parents and pillars sought equitable and quality learning opportunities for their children but to no avail. However, the arrival of public charter schools with open enrollment practices and more rigorous academic programs opened the door to parental choice and empowerment. Today, Orleans Parish is home to 67 percent of Louisiana’s charter schools. And 1,645 students attend private schools in lieu of a low-performing school thanks to student scholarships.

Considering the opportunity to transform lives and futures, one can’t help but wonder what’s hindering the rest of the state from following suit. Of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, 13 — including Caddo — have charter schools. Orleans leads with about 61, followed by East Baton Rouge with approximately 16.

Yet one glance at the Louisiana Education Department’s 2010 district accountability scores reveals more has to be done. In Caddo, 25 of the district’s 67 public schools attained minimal academic growth, seven showed no growth and 21 were in decline. In East Baton Rouge, 35 of that district’s 78 public schools attained minimal growth, 11 showed no growth and 10 were in decline.

Interestingly, the attendance rate in both school districts was 94.2 percent during the 2009-10 academic year. So it’s clear that students show up, but the outcomes do otherwise.

It’s time to build up our students and educational structure throughout Louisiana. We can start by presenting families with more quality educational options such as charter schools, private school scholarships, increased home schooling, public-private partnerships, virtual schools, after-school programs and effective traditional public schools.

The Louisiana chapter of the Black Alliance for Educational Options believes in school choice. Its representatives travel throughout the state educating parents about all these options and encouraging parents to become advocates for their children’s education.

When Louisiana joined other states in recognizing National School Choice Week last week, we were reminded that education is about more than showing up — it’s growing up.

It’s time to build, Louisiana!

Shreé Medlock, of Baton Rouge, is national advocacy director for the Black Alliance for Educational Options and spearheads its initiatives in Louisiana.

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