It has been 10 years since the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. The success of school choice in Louisiana is a glimmer of hope amidst what has been an incredible struggle to recovery for New Orleans families. Jason Russell makes the case in the Washington Examiner today on why it shouldn’t take a natural disaster for every state to adopt school choice.
About a decade ago, Louisiana officials decided to take over all but a few of New Orleans public schools in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. From the start, then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, was determined to turn the city into an all-choice school district. Blanco wanted open enrollment across the system, without neighborhood zones, and for government funding to follow students to their school of choice.
From an academic standpoint, the takeover was clearly justified. Two out of every three students attended a failing school. Students struggled to meet college readiness benchmarks on the ACT.
Today, every family has a say in where their child goes to school. Nine out of 10 public school students have chosen a charter school. Students are noticeably outperforming the pre-hurricane results. Only 7 percent of students attend a failing school. Three out of four students graduate, which is right in line with Louisiana’s statewide rate. ACT results are much closer to the state average.
All of that progress is thanks to school choice, says Center for Education Reform President Kara Kerwin. “Without that environment, without a real change in the governance structure which allowed really great people to come in and think about schools differently, without giving parents the ability to make choices, you wouldn’t see those results,” Kerwin told the Washington Examiner. “It would have gone back to the very same thing.”