Lessons in School Choice as Louisiana Drowns

During much of the Louisiana 2016 flood, I was in Denver Colorado.  It all started in March of this year when a young man named Josh Kaib invited me to a conference called “Amplify School Choice.” The conference was presented by the Franklin Center, and covered the various facets of school choice:  charter schools, vouchers, homeschooling and a variety of other topics were covered throughout the conference.

Seeking to spread the message of school choice, the Franklin Center invited a vast collection of bloggers from every state.   I was among hose bloggers privileged enough to attend, and I found the information presented to be incredibly insightful.

My original intent had been to write my first blog entry immediately after the conference ended, but that’s right around the time when I learned that my house was under water 1,300 miles away and that I would not be able to get a flight home for several days.

Suddenly it was very hard to blog.  It was much easier to walk downtown and drown my sorrows at the infamous Coyote Ugly Saloon and that’s  pretty much what I did.

A video of some of the saloon’s antics is below.

 

Eventually I made it back home to my parents’ house because my house was still inaccessible and uninhabitable.

For the past week I’ve been gutting my house.  This is the first time I’ve actually had a chance to sit down and write about school choice conference, so here goes;

On the first day of the conference, Mr. Josh Kaib opened the conference with a simple yet profound statement: “A child’s destiny should not be determined by his zip code.”

Indeed, for most of us, the place where our children will attend school is determined by geography.  And for many years, many of us accepted this idea without really questioning or challenging it.

But there are better ways to educate the children of tomorrow, and the state of Colorado has been at the forefront in finding these new and improved ways.  Charter schools in particular have been proliferating in the state, providing educational opportunities for students of color and English Language Learners.

And they have doing so with a high degree of success. Keep in mind that charter schools have strict accountability standards, including the threat of immediate closure or state takeover if students  do not meet state performance requirements.  And so every three years, the Colorado Department of Education develops a report on the current status of charter schools because the law requires them to.

The Colorado League of Charter Schools recently published a report on the state of charter schools.   The highlights of those findings include:

• Colorado charter public schools are enrolling students of color and English Language Learners (ELLs) at higher rates than the state’s traditional public schools.

• Charter public school students — including those who are considered at-risk — continue to outperform their peers in traditional public schools on state performance measures.

Over the course of the conference, we had the opportunity to visit two of the schools that are at the forefront of Colorado’s education initiatives.  We also had the chance to meet alumni from these schools.  As indicated in the report, these were students of color whose charter school education had prepared them for colleges which that they were currently attending.  I plan to go into more specifics about the schools visited in a later post.

The takeaway here is that Colorado’s great educational experiment has been a net positive for that state. Other states, Louisiana included, might want to follow their lead in securing a better future for the next generation.

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