Why do 4,900 children in Louisiana matter to everyone in the U.S.?
Because their fate reveals a universal truth about American public schools: they are rigged for the adults working at them.
A Louisiana judge last week made national news for ruling a school voucher program for those children unconstitutional under state law. The suit was brought by an education union to stop the program, which allows low-income students from bad schools to attend the private school of their choice. The public schools fled by students were rated C, D or F by the state.
The union, the Louisiana Association of Educators, went so far as to threaten legal action against schools accepting voucher students this summer. They did all of this for the children, of course.
The case will likely be appealed. But as Robert Enlow of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice wrote this week, the logic behind the union lawsuit is “it's better for all children to get a lousy education than for some to get the chance to escape to a better school using a voucher.” Since most schools in the Louisiana K-12 public school system are ranked C, D or F, the union has won that battle already.
And other unions have been trying to subjugate learning to their demands in myriad copycat suits around the country and in campaigns to stop virtually any type of school choice. Currently, Indiana is awaiting a ruling from the state’s highest court on its voucher program. The result of the public school monopoly is generations of children for whom graduation – if they get there – is merely a rite of passage instead of a meaningful stamp of job and civil society worthiness.
Statistics tell the story. Between 1950 and 2009, the number of K-12 public school students increased by 96 percent as the number of full-time equivalent school employees skyrocketed 386 percent, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics analyzed by the Friedman Foundation. And per pupil spending in public schools has more than doubled in inflation adjusted dollars over the last four decades – but student performance has stagnated – showing that those who run the schools have benefitted tremendously at the expense of learning.