According to Dr. Michael Walker Jones of the Louisiana Association of Educators, low-income parents “don’t have a clue” when it comes to making decisions about their children’s education. Last week, in an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune, he stated: “If I’m a parent in poverty, I have no clue because I’m trying to struggle and live day-to-day.”
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) was quick to respond to Jones, who leads the state’s largest education union:
The union leader’s comments are just the type of top-down, arrogant, elitist mentality that has badly damaged our system of public education in this country. I believe that parents—regardless of their income or circumstances—know what’s best for their children. It’s ridiculous and insulting to say that parents can’t make decisions in the best interest of their children.
And the governor’s newly unveiled education reform plan reflects this belief.
Among other changes, such as reforming teacher tenure policies and increasing flexibility for school leaders, Jindal’s plan seeks to empower parents through school choice.
Perhaps most notably, the governor calls for a restructuring of student funding in such a way that gives students maximum flexibility in using their state education dollars. He called for education dollars to “follow the child to whatever educational option meets their needs.”
The plan also includes expanding the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program—a program for children from low-income families (below 250 percent of the poverty line) attending underperforming public schools in New Orleans. The governor proposes expanding the program to low-income students statewide who are attending schools graded at “C” or below. This translates to approximately 70 percent of the state’s students being eligible for the program.
Jindal’s plan also expands private-school choice by putting into place “a rebate for donations made to nonprofit organizations that offer scholarships to low-income students to attend private school.” Additionally, the governor’s proposals would promote the growth of charter schools by making “it easier for high quality charter operators to expand.”
On top of these reforms, the governor’s plan takes an innovative approach to increasing “course choices for students” by “allowing a variety of providers, including school districts, virtual schools, colleges and universities, and businesses with training programs, to offer students additional options.”
Instead of pushing parents out of one of the most important decisions of their children’s lives, the governor’s plan supports families by opening up the doors of educational opportunity. It boosts the likelihood that a child—regardless of his or her background—will receive a quality education, giving greater hope for a promising future.