Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, for the record, I like CenLamar and have cited it from time to time in posts on this very blog.

However, I must respectfully disagree with Drew Ward's post in support of the school vouchers that were approved by the state House.

A sampling of the contents of that post:

There is much talk these days about public-private partnerships. Usually these are viewed in a positive light, but in this case the idea is taking a lot of flac. The fact is that government has failed the people and has shown its inability to deliver. In this same field of education in New Orleans private institutions — in particular the Archdiocese of New Orleans have excelled for generations. They have proven time and again their ability to provide among the finest educations in the State and to do so without limiting their educational scope by adherence to religious doctrine.

In this case, private organizations offer a superior product than their public counterpart. They do so at a lower cost, and provide excellent outcomes. When government fails we must look for other alternatives, and when those alternatives are sitting in our laps we’d be idiots not to embrace them.

Actually, state government has been failing the remnants of the Orleans Parish public schools for nearly three years. Before that, it was the local school board and folks like Ellenese Brooks-Sims who saw the schools as perfect candidates for shuffling money around for their own profit and to hell with the communities they were supposed to serve. The approval of a voucher program will, at best, be an avenue of escape in the here and now for kids who are not being served by the state - in the interest of taking a little pressure off the RSD while it gets some sort of act together.

From what I have seen, however, the best-case scenario I have described is not going to be the case.

Lamar White, Jr., says it best in his comments on this post:

5. How do private institutions provide education at a “lower cost” when public education is TUITION-FREE for every single American child?

6. Past failures should never be an excuse for future failures, nor should they become ground to allow for the quiet privatization of the public school system, which, in our democracy, should be considered a fundamental right of all Americans.

7. The legacy of the Diocese in New Orleans may be commendable, but ultimately, this is a short-term proposal that will only divert money to benefit a select few– at the expense of funding public education and at the expense of incentivizing private/public partnership to benefit public education. However commendable the Diocese is, taxpayer money should not be diverted to educate people, from a very early age, in a particular religious doctrine. (At least if you’re serious about fixing education, because I cannot envision how a long-term, massive privatization is, in any way, an option on the table).

I think the first part of benefiting way, waaay more than just a select few is transparency...which is sorely lacking when FOIA requests are denied to those who have every right to see them.

For those who ARE able to get the pertinent documents, there are indeed some suspicious omissions that hint at either secrecy, stupidity, or both in tandem.

And, as for Lamar being unable to envision "a long-term, massive privatization" of our schools, I invite him and Drew Ward to come on down and see what's doing here. Take a look at some past posts on this blog and on those of others who have been involved with these issues for quite some time. I know I'm missing some people in this. If you're reading this and you too have been keeping tabs on the charterization of the schools here, let me know in the comments.

Maybe it's 'cause I just visited the Space Coast in Florida, but it occurs to me that, contrary to what RSD, BESE, and our state officials would have us believe, failure is most certainly an option with regards to the New Orleans public schools - or what is left of them.

And I do hope Greg Peters' latest comic is up soon for all of y'all to see...because it has some pointed commentary on how little the legislators in Red Stick think of education in general in this state - not to mention what a doormat our guv'nor is with regards to the lege's pay raises for themselves and to other acts of"fiscal discipline". Roll over and play dead, Bobby. You might as well.

Oh...by the way...this oughta teach me to go to south Florida for a weekend. Somebody tell me when Dick Cheney's birth certificate expires. Maybe then I'll plan a trip back to the Sunshine State...


saintseester said...

I think the point #5 does not consider the per child cost. If the state is paying $5000 per child to educate vs the catholic tuition where parents maybe pay $4000 (I'm just making these numbers up), then the private education has a cheaper price tag.

And, yes, Catholic schools (at least down here) have historically provided a solid education at less cost per child than public schools. BUT! And this is a huge BUT! Catholic Schools generally do not have to accomodate every disability. The public schools do. If they did, then the cost per child would rise to be similar, I think.

Where I live, tuition is roughly half of what the state is sending to elementary public schools per child.

Cold Spaghetti said...

hear, hear

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the elaboration. I obviously disagree with Drew as well, though I don't discount his intentions.

That said, I should clarify: I don't believe anyone should consider massive privatization as a viable solution, though I appreciate the way in which the NOLA school system is being used by a narrowly-focused group of ideologues as a staging ground for massive experimentation with charters and other unaccredited, untested models. Like others have pointed out, I see the Shock Doctrine all over this.

Destroying public education in the name of "efficiency" is incredibly short-sighted.

As for #5, again public school is tuition-free for all students. We collectively share the increased cost because, collectively, we believe in the fundamental right to a quality education, regardless of your family's income, your race, gender, or disability.

It is incredibly and exhaustingly sad that any one who calls themselves a leader or an education advocate would ever seek to jeopardize the promise of public education by diverting money to untested, privately-owned and privately-managed schools-- using backdoor programs that can only benefit a select few.

Leigh C. said...

Thanks for the response, Lamar! Of course, I get it AFTER I post a comment over at y'all's blog. 8-S

"We collectively share the increased cost because, collectively, we believe in the fundamental right to a quality education, regardless of your family's income, your race, gender, or disability."

Problem is, I don't think many people believe in that anymore, or at least, they never did believe it and there are currently sneakier ways to conceal that lack of belief in the right for all regardless of gender, color, and/or disability to have that education.

I think when you couple enough people in prominent positions with a mandate to remake the schools in the way THEY see fit, it adds up to the death of this belief. This is why parents have to get back into this process in ways that are not mere window dressing for the more powerful. If the parents can get out from under doing their damnedest to rebuild their homes and their lives while paying astronomical gas prices, that is.