Beau Chene Country Club was the venue for the Northshore Republican Men’s Club Meet the Press event on Friday, June 24. While I enjoyed hearing updates from the entire panel, my favorite part of the evening was when club president Rick Danielson opened up the floor for questions. When that happens, typically someone will ask about education. This crowd did not disappoint. Multiple education questions were asked of the panel, but one response really caught my attention. Scott McKay of thehayride.com explained to the audience that he believed education would not improve without the free market system. He explained that about $10,000 was spent on each child in this state this year. That is each child in public schools! This was reported by Agenda for Children out of New Orleans; they reported this figure in 2007 dollars. Tulane University’s Cowen Institute reports the current range of spending to be $6,729 – $10, 474. That is more than almost any private school in the state. If parents were allowed to decide the school that their child would attend, the competition alone would bring about major improvement. He is correct in stating that when there is no competition, there is often no incentive to do a better job. Louisiana has, however, made recent strides toward the goal of academic excellence.
How do we make improvements? Testing has been a very good start. With LEAP testing, the state is ensuring that basic skills are acquired prior to promotion. These tests are critical because if a child has missed learning basics, their chance of success diminishes with each passing year. When there is a learning problem, the rule of thumb is to identify the area of weakness as early as possible. Early remediation can make a tremendous difference. I worked as a LEAP tutor in the public schools. It is evident that struggling students need this intensive assistance in order to make progress. Our state is doing a much better job trying to make sure that all students acquire basic skills. But many schools do have a long way to go, especially in the New Orleans school system.
While improving standards and testing is critically important, many other issues must be addressed. Until we can discuss teacher salaries, curriculum and discipline, just to name a few, we will not get the job done. While teacher salaries have improved, those salaries are still far behind that of other professions, even with continuing education requirements. The curriculum is another source of debate and controversy. At Meet the Press one attendee questioned what children were learning in school. History and Science curriculum, in particular, seem to be the source of heated debate. Discipline is a topic that teachers and administrators would like to discuss. What do we do with children who come from homes where neglect, abuse, drugs, etc. are a part of daily life? We can’t expect a hungry or abused child to perform at the same level as a child who comes from a supportive, nurturing environment. How do we help these students reach their full potential?
There are so many issues that need to be addressed. I hope to discuss these topics and more in the future. Education is far too important to ignore or deal with in a simplistic fashion. But throwing more money into a school system will not make all of the school’s problems go away. We see the huge amount of money spent per pupil, yet we still have so many unresolved issues. What can we do to make improvements? What should we do to make improvements? Those answers will change depending on who you ask. But this I know, we as parents, grandparents or just citizens need to be willing to discuss all of these issues and get involved so we can make a positive difference in the life of every child. They are our future.