Mini-Policy Summit focuses on future of education reform in Louisiana

Nearly two decades into Louisiana’s K-12 education reform movement, national policy experts joined education leaders and lawmakers to discuss the past and future during the Louisiana Mini Policy Summit on Education Reform. The recurring message during the half-day meeting: parents are invested in their children’s education and eliminating poverty is an important factor in improving the state’s education fortunes.

“People are craving new and different types of education. This is coming mostly from parents,” said Adam Peshek, ExcelinEd’s managing director of opportunity policy.

Ken Campbell, southern Louisiana executive director of IDEA Public Schools, said school choice opponents, from school boards to teachers unions to bus drivers, are fearful of power shifting to parents. “All of a sudden [parents] can get in and create a new school. Money shifts and follows parents to that new school. That scares them to death.”

Panelists agreed that Louisiana needs to ensure that students are being prepared for 21st century careers.

Louisiana Senator Conrad Appel told attendees that education can help break the cycle of poverty. “We have to educate our people at all strata to fit into the 21st century, and to understand the significance of what it is to live in the 21st century and make a meaningful family income through their education,” said Sen. Appel.

T. Willard Fair, CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami, Fla., discussed why his organization parted ways with the state’s NAACP. “We did not want this to boil down to a black/white issue. It was about an opportunity issue for us. If we are dedicated and committed to preparing children of color and other children to be competitive in the 21st century, then we must explore every opportunity,” said Fair.

John White, Louisiana’s superintendent of education since 2012, said more must be done to serve the states most disadvantaged students. “It is still viewed as a promotion in Louisiana to teach in the wealthy magnet school, and a demotion to teach in the poor rural or inner-city low-income school,” said White. “We’ve got to figure out how to incent and reward schools that grow challenged learners, rather than schools that start at the top,” he added.

The Louisiana Mini Policy Summit on Education Reform was hosted by Representative Steve Carter.