We don’t have to wonder what Mitt Romney’s education plan would look like if he is elected. It would look like the Jindal legislation passed this spring in Louisiana.
The Louisiana “reforms” represent the purest distillation of the rightwing agenda for education.
First, they create a marketplace of competition, with publicly funded vouchers and many new charter schools under private management.
Second, more than half the children in the state (400,000+) are eligible for vouchers, even though only about 5,000 seats have been offered, some in tiny church schools that don’t actually have the seats or facilities or teachers.
Third, the charter authorities will collect a commission for every student that enrolls in a charter, a windfall for them. And of course, there is a “parent trigger” to encourage the creation of more charters as parents become discouraged by neglected, underfunded public schools.
Fourth, the money for the vouchers and charters will come right out of the minimum funding allocated for the public schools, guaranteeing that the remaining public schools will have less money, more crowded classes, and suffer major budget cuts.
Fifth, the law authorizes public money for online instruction, for online for-profit schools, and for instruction offered by private businesses, universities, tutors, and anyone else who wants to claim a share of the state’s money for public education.
Sixth, teacher evaluation will be tied to student test scores and teachers can be easily fired, assuring that no one will ever dare teach anything controversial or disagree with their principal. Teachers in charter schools, the biggest growth sector, will not need certification.
Rather than go on, I here link to a blog I wrote at Bridging Differences (hosted by Education Week). My blog links to an article written by a Louisiana teacher who happens to have been a professional journalist. You should read what she wrote.
The Jindal plan is sweeping and it seeks to dismantle public education. It is a plan to privatize public education. It is not conservative. Conservatives don’t destroy essential democratic institutions. Conservatives build on tradition, they don’t heedlessly cast them aside. Conservatives are conservative because they take incremental steps, to fix what’s broken, not to sweep away an entire institution. Jindal’s plan is not conservative. It is reactionary.
And it is a template for what Romney promises to do.