Education and School Choice, In The News

National School Choice Week kicks off in New Orleans


by Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS– Vanessa Prout and several of her grandchildren spent part of their weekend immersed in schools.

“I was just trying to get some more information on it and other schools,” she said.

Prout was part of the crowd that gathered at the UNO Lakefront Arena for the national start of School Choice Week. More than 350 events are being held in all 50 states. New Orleans became the focus of it because the emergence of the school choice movement here. It is part of an effort to let parents know what options they have, when it comes to their children’s education.

“What we see today in our public education system all throughout the country is that the education you get is based on the zip code that you live in,” said Michelle Bernard, President of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy.

National School Choice Week advisor Lisa Keegan said students attending schools, based on where they live, does not work for everyone.

“There is just a huge array of choices you can make for your kids,” Keegan said.

Among the options touted: charter, public and private schools, along with vouchers, homeschooling and online learning.

Governor Bobby Jindal outlined educational reform as a major part of his second term, including a proposed statewide expansion of the Orleans school voucher program. It is something that is also being pushed for by the Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options.

“It’s been our belief that this program is been effective for parents and the idea of parental choice and so we’d like to see the program expanded across the state,” said Eric Lewis, state director of the LaBAEO.

However, the event’s organizers say they try to stay from politics, even though some of the school choice ideas are controversial and leave questions about how to best deal with failing schools.

“It’s always difficult because schooling is about human relationships and I don’t think that anybody who does our work can speak in terms of, ‘oh that’s competition or whatever.’ It’s heartbreaking and we know it,” Keegan said. “But what school choice is about, is about being excellent no matter the cost.”

Just what that cost ends up being may become apparent in New Orleans first, as it stands at the forefront of dealing with the concept of school choice.

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