I just came across an interesting statistic about Louisiana that puts the Jindal education reform plan into context.*
The majority of white children in Louisiana do not go to public school. The majority of white children go to private schools.
Black children are the majority in the public schools of Louisiana.
According to Census data, 17% of Louisiana children enrolled in grades K-12 attended a private school in 2007. By comparison, 11% of U.S. children enrolled in grades K-12 attended a private school in 2007.1
Enrollment in nonpublic schools varies widely among Louisiana’s parishes, from zero children in 14 parishes to over 22,000 children in Jefferson Parish.
White children are a majority of school-age children (55%) in the state, but are 82% of the private school enrollment.
Black children are 39% of the school-age children, but only 13% are in private schools.
This suggests an interesting and politically complicated scenario.
Vouchers and charters appeal to those already in private schools, if those schools can get additional state funding and if the conditions for getting them are not too onerous. Some Roman Catholic schools are offering seats, but the numbers are small. The early response suggests that the prime beneficiaries are likely to be schools run by evangelical denominations.
Let’s see how many of the all-white private schools (some of which had their origins as “segregation academies”) open their doors to black children from D or F schools.
About 400,000 students are eligible for vouchers, but only about 5,000 seats are available across the state.http://www.louisianaschools.net/topics/scholarships_availability.html. In nearly half the parishes in the state, no private school is participating (accepting new voucher students).
It will be interesting to see the reaction of parents now paying full tuition as their school starts accepting students whose tuition is paid with tax dollars. Will they react magnanimously or will they be angry and demand that the state pay some or all of their tuition?
Before the Jindal “reforms” were passed, the state commissioner John White said that students could get a voucher only if they had been in a D or F school for a year. Let’s watch and see if the one-year requirement is maintained, and whether some parents move their children to a low-rated school for a year to save tens of thousands of dollars in the future.
Let’s also watch to see whether the legislation encourages further racial segregation, as blacks and whites go to segregated charter schools.
And let’s see if there is any oversight of these issues from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
The Louisiana “reforms” are intended to encourage pupils to transfer out of public education. There is nothing in them to improve public schools, just to promote alternatives so that students can “escape.”
The Jindal “reforms” are a template for the Romney education program. Romney, who went to elite private schools and sent his own children to elite private schools, views public education as a disaster. Given his Bain background, he may see public education as a business that should be shut down, with its component parts sold off. From his perspective, privatization makes sense.
Romney’s pronouncements to date mirror Jindal’s. It’s not because they chatted up the subject, but because they both work from the old songbook of Milton Friedmanites. The free market cures all ills. Break the regulatory controls of governments, give everyone a voucher, and let the market work its magic. Charters are added to the mix because they too provide an “escape” route for those who hate public schools.
It does seem odd for an advanced society to start giving away and dismantling an essential public service. It takes a certain kind of detached and cold policy wonk to engage in this sort of exercise. The sort of person who has no sense of living in community, the sort who sees a certain beauty in “creative destruction.” The sort who can look at people and institutions from afar and rearrange their lives without thinking of the repercussions.
Strictly from an educational point of view, I suspect that the charters (whose teachers need not be certified) and the religious schools will have lower standards than the public schools from which students are “escaping.”
Keep an eye on Louisiana.
*Here is the source for enrollment data: http://www.agendaforchildren.org/2009databook/Education/nonpublicschoolenrollment.pdf
White children are overrepresented in private schools in comparison to black children. White children represent 55% of the school-age child population in Louisiana, but they represent 82% of the private school population in Louisiana. By contrast, black children comprise 39% of the school-age child population in the state, but just 13% of children attending private school.
Data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics shows similar over- and under-representation at the national level as well. Nationally, white students make up 75% of the private school population, but just 57% of the public school population. Black students make up just 10% of the nation’s private school enrollment, but 17% of its public school enrollment.2
Black students in Louisiana are more likely than their white counterparts to attend a public school. While 39% of the child population in Louisiana is black, 46% of public school students are black. By contrast, 55% of the child population is Louisiana is white, but only 49% of the public school population is white. While a majority of public school students are black in 22 parishes, black students are not the majority at nonpublic schools in any parish. About half of Louisiana’s parishes have public school populations that are majority-white, but white students represent the overwhelming majority of students in nonpublic schools in each of the 50 parishes that have nonpublic schools.