Governor Jindal has said that education policy and reform will be the center piece of his administration this term. BESE (Board of Elementary & Secondary Education) run-offs concluded yesterday, and Jindal will have enough allies on the BESE board to carry the reform agenda and advance it throughout the state. One of the highest profile BESE races concluded yesterday with Kira Orange Jones unseating incumbent Louella Givens. See the Times-Picayune’s coverage here.
So what does this mean for Louisiana? Well, 8 votes on BESE is the “super majority” needed for the governor to push his agenda through, and it looks like he will easily have that. Here’s what is likely to happen:
- John White, current superintendent of the RSD, will become the State superintendent
- Charter schools will likely expand to more parishes outside of Orleans
- Teacher accountability will be front and center; rewarding performance and being able to remove substandard performers
Now, some of the above is speculative, but I think it is important to pay attention to what will be happening here in Louisiana. A few months ago, I made this post about the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count data. Louisiana is ranked 49th of 50 states on most indicators related to child well-being, including educational measures. Significant changes need to be made in Louisiana, and it looks like one set of solutions related to education is about to be advanced.
However, in order for the reforms to be successful, context needs to be considered. I don’t think we can simply scale-up the New Orleans reforms state-wide. While there are high need populations throughout this state, context matters. Rural schools and districts will have to be considered as state education policy evolves. School choice as a prevailing policy may work in urban areas, but it would be much harder to have school choice in rural districts where there is only one school serving the area.
All of this is to say that I think it is an exciting time to be living in Louisiana as a student of education. A lot will be happening in education once the new BESE members take their seats in January. It’s exciting to me that Louisiana may be a leader in educational reform.
Governor Jindal has a lot riding on this too. I still believe that he has ambitions greater than just Louisiana, and if I am right about that and if the educational policies of the Jindal administration are seen as successful, we (educators and educationists) may need to have a serious conversation about what scaling these reforms up even more might look like.
If you are interested in education, you need to watch Louisiana.