An Open Letter to Our Next Governor

An Open Letter to Our Next Governor

By Anitra Brown | Originally Published at The New Orleans Tribune. December 15, 2015

Dear Governor-Elect John Bel Edwards:

On the off-chance that you were unaware, we just thought you should know that the pro-education reform forces are gearing up to influence your decisions as it relates to the direction of public education in Louisiana.

It has already begun with a recent meeting of public education advocacy groups led, oddly enough, by the 100 Black Men of Metro New Orleans, which is now offering training on how to be a charter school board member (at least according to its website), to discuss an agenda for public education reform and the impact you will have on their so-called education reform efforts.

It has already started with news outlets printing headlines after headline raising the question of how your governorship with impact the current reform movement that has swept through Louisiana, especially New Orleans, like a tidal wave.

It started before the runoff with high-profile individuals using the fear that you would dismantle education reforms in what could have only been an attempt to throw the election to your opponent.

Yes, they are wondering and worried whether you will erase the reforms they have put in place over the last eight to 10 years. Truth is they are nervous. Make no mistake—we rather like it that way.

They should be nervous. The very thought of what might happen as it relates to public education in our state after January 11, 2016, should have them trembling in their boots. They should be sweating. In our fantasy, we wake up on January 12 to the news that you have fired John White, limited the state Board of Education’s ability to grant charters, closed the Recovery School District and ditched Common Core.

That’s just our fantasy. Of course, we expect that you will maneuver and implement change in a cautious, reasonable and, well . . . political manner. The fact that you will take a route slightly different than the one we daydream about is already evidenced by your selection of Leslie Jacobs to your 53-member panel to study K-12 public education committee. Arguably the architect of the current reform movement, Jacobs is definitely NOT a part of our post-election, public education fantasy.

And we are not afraid to let you know that it is an appointment that raised an eyebrow here. Nonetheless, we look at your record and your words and we have to believe that you will do the right things.

So let’s be clear, Mr. Edwards, we expect change. And we hope that you will not be swayed from your positions—positions already made public by your own words and your deeds as a state legislator. If we expected things to stay the same, David Vitter would be moving into the governor’s mansion next month instead of you.

We have been waiting to exhale. And by “we”, we are referring to the cadre of parents, students, educators, advocates, and taxpayers who have over and again expressed their dismay and outrage for the well-funded corporate reform movement that has implemented these wide-sweeping changes with little or no regard for the deleterious impact on students and the erosion of public education. By “we”, we are referring to the folks who have seen right through the false claims of success and skewed and “muddied narratives” of this so-called reform and who know what it has really been—a hostile takeover of public funds and facilities for private gain.

So yes, we rejoiced at your election. Finally, a governor not afraid to say that local, public education should be controlled locally. A governor who, as a state legislator, did not sit silently as charter-managed schools littered the public education landscape, but instead tried to offer legislation that would have controlled the proliferation of these quasi-private institutions. A governor who has expressed concerns regarding vouchers

And yes, the fact that you were one of the state House members that voted in favor of HB 166, which would have returned successful schools to the Orleans Parish School Board, has us eager and energized. So you should know they are meeting and coalescing and otherwise planning ways to influence your positions on public education.

You spoke with the New Orleans Tribune shortly before the general election, during which you said you favored local control of local schools and that the Recovery School District was “always meant to be a temporary fix.” We agree.

Of course, they are worried about what your tenure will mean for the 7,000 (serving less than I percent of all Louisiana public school students) vouchers issued and the more than 100 charters, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education as well as the state education superintendent post. As a legislator, you opposed vouchers. And while you have made no mention of ending the program, any attention you would give to revamping it would be welcome. As you know, this so-called scholarship program does little more than take public money meant for public schools and funnels it to private and parochial institutions that may or may not be providing quality educational opportunities without addressing the most important issue—which is how to ensure that every one of the more than 700,000 public school students are getting the very best education possible in our public schools.

Lest we forget, the voucher program, in the not so distant past, approved vouchers for a private school that didn’t even have adequate desks, teachers or class space. So if as governor, you opt to at least initiate an overhaul the dubious Louisiana voucher system, it would be a welcomed event.

We know that you have raised some questions regarding the academic and fiscal accountability of the many quasi-private charter schools. And you were right to do so. With charter schools employees making off with all kinds of money and the poor fiscal oversight of the RSD, which has led to legislative audits questioning missing assets and equipment at these schools, someone should question it. You have introduced legislation to limit the unfettered growth of charter schools. And we applaud that effort.

Essentially, here’s what we are saying to you Governor-elect Edwards. Particularly as it relates to education, we are looking to you to remain steadfast in your beliefs and the positions you have taken throughout your legislative career despite the well-organized, ridiculously-well funded forces mounting their campaigns to persuade you otherwise.

Anitra Brown Senior Editor, Anitra Brown joined the staff as editor in March of 2004 and immediately brought her fresh ideas and her immense talent and skills to the publication while still embracing the long-standing tradition of The Tribune and its objective to offer its readers news and information from a perspective not heard in the city’s mainstream media.

A native of the New Orleans metropolitan area, Anitra is a graduate of Dillard University and the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri–Columbia, where she earned her master’s degree in journalism. Trained as a government beat reporter, her experiences in journalism stem from stints as a staff writer at The Myrtle Beach (SC) Sun News and the Thibodaux (LA) Daily Comet and The Houston Chronicle. Shortly before joining The Tribune, Anitra made her living as freelance writer in the New Orleans area. She has also taught journalism at several colleges and universities, including Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., Delgado Community College and Dillard University, both in New Orleans. Most importantly, her professional knowledge, passion for and commitment to the practice of journalism, has made her a vital part of Tribune’s staff. She has become integral to the developing The Tribune’s editorial focus.

This piece was reprinted by EmpathyEducates with permission or license. We thank the Author, Anitra Brown for her kindness, strength, wisdom, and for caring. We hope, one day we all will and that our children, the community will receive a much needed public education.


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