By Dayne Sherman
One of the greatest mysteries of Louisiana politics is a recent phenomenon: The Recovery School District.
The RSD, created under Governor Kathleen Blanco in 2003, began as a way for the state to wrest control of “failing” schools from local districts. Now it serves as the model for Governor Bobby Jindal’s unwise education “reform” agenda.
Let’s address some key facts about this failed agenda. According to the latest Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) District Rankings Based on 2011 District Performance Score, the RSD is the second worst district in the State of Louisiana. It is ranked number 61 out of 62 districts listed. Zachary School District is ranked first, and St. Helena Parish is last.
According to the LDOE’s own ranking, the Failed RSD is a district at the very bottom of Louisiana education achievement, and Louisiana as a whole is at the very bottom of the U.S., and this makes Superintendent John White’s model district one of the worst school districts in the developed world.
Please don’t forget, White was head of the RSD before he was promoted to State Superintendent. This alone is a scandal.
Sponsored by Louisiana Progress and the Daily Star, an Education Policy Forum was held in Hammond on January 29th. While at that forum, which was well-attended by concerned citizens, I had the misfortune of asking panelist John Ayers, Executive Director of Tulane’s University’s Cowen Institute, about the Failed RSD and the fraud of Bobby Jindal’s education “reform” scheme.
What proceeded from Ayers was a series of arrogant statements with no connection to the real facts. It was Jindal-White education “reform” spin faster than a new Maytag.
First, Ayers denied that the RSD was indeed a failed district or even one of the worst in the state. But he never countered the data as stated above using the LDOE’s own District Performance Score.
Second, his chief argument for showing the vitality of the RSD was that New Orleans has half of the number of failing schools now than they did prior to Hurricane Katrina.
Nice spin, Mr. Ayers. But New Orleans has about half the student population. It sure makes claiming victory easy.
Third, Ayers bloviated about the great parent satisfaction of the charter schools. However, that very night, parents from across the country and New Orleans appealed to the U.S. Department of Education about the civil rights violations of such education programs.
Fourth, later during the forum Ayers denied that the goal of the charter school movement was to make money for corporations. This, however, is a fairy tale. Just last week, an expose from In the Public Interest was released with thousands of e-mails showing that Jeb Bush’s pro-charter educational foundation was all about benefiting its corporate funders, not the children.
The Failed RSD is not a miracle. It is only magic, a sleight of hand shell game run by corporate profiteers and their well paid lackeys. The taxpayers, parents, and school children of Louisiana deserve better than the Cowen Institutes duplicitous spin.
The Failed RSD, the Cowen Institute, John White, and Governor Jindal’s unconstitutional education “reform” package are a disgrace.
Louisiana would do well to find a better approach to education “reform” and better people to lead our state.
(Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula)