Louisiana is a school reform industry success story. Industry insider Michelle Rhee gave the state a high grade for Excellence in School Reform Industry Practice. So, in the interest of accountability (a very, very important concept among reform industry leaders, but one they never apply to themselves) I thought I’d tell you about one of the totally awesome game-changers they’re attempting in Louisiana. This is a plan to sell publicly funded for-profit education products door-to-door. It’s called Course Choice, and if that sounds more like a product than a “public school program” to you then you’re making Adequate Yearly Progress in school reform industry studies. It’s also a lot like the plan that Michigan Governor Snyder planned to put in until a newspaper found out he was holding secret meetings to develop the sales team. Course Choice in Louisiana = Value Vouchers in Michigan. It’s super-de-duper innovative, because the reform industry can spoon on a thick, creamy layer of profit on top of many of these courses:
In the separate mini-voucher program due to launch in 2013, students across Louisiana, regardless of income, will be able to tap the state treasury to pay for classes that are offered by private vendors and not available in their regular public schools. Students can also use the mini-vouchers to design their own curriculum, tapping state funds to pay for online classes or private tutors if they’re not satisfied with their public school’s offerings.
Officials have not estimated the price tag of these programs but expect the state will save money in the long run, because they believe the private sector can educate kids more cheaply than public schools.
You gotta believe, especially when you claim you’re “data-driven.”
State officials will review every private-sector class before approving it. They are still working out how to assess rigor and effectiveness.
They have absolutely no idea whether this “aggressive strategy” is either rigorous or effective. None. In fact, they have a ton of evidence from other states (like Ohio) that it will be ineffective. Here’s a Lousiana blogger who was alerted to ads on Craig’s List for temps to sell this newest reform industry product door-to-door:
The campaign is already starting up. There will be millions devoted to marketing alone. One of my readers found some ads that are now being run all over Lousiana to hire salesmen to hawk these courses to parents in high poverty neighborhoods:
“Help change the landscape of public education in Louisiana!
On your own time! With the potential to make $75k+ in 6 months or less!
Company Description: SmartStart Virtual Academy (“SVA”) (a division of SmartStart Education) is a state-approved Course Choice provider. This means that SVA has been authorized to offer FREE courses to high-school students in the state of Louisiana for graduation credit. SVA is offering 22 approved courses — both core-classes (such as reading, math and science) and career-ready courses (such as web-design and publishing).”
“Pay rate: $16/hour Position Responsibilities: Conduct door-to-door marketing of program.”
There’s a new reform industry report card out. This one is by ALEC. ALEC is the lobbying group that purchases state legislators and writes many of our nation’s least-popular state laws. They were also very active in gutting weapon regulations and passing voter suppression legislation, because nothing says Excellence in Education like pushing for laws that make it harder for poor people to vote. On the other hand, I’ve had to learn a certain amount about state election law thanks to the caring teachers at ALEC, so in that sense ALEC is furthering my education. Like Rhee, ALEC also puts Louisiana and Florida near the top of the reform industry class. Not in actual education achievement, but in ideological fealty to, and I’m quoting the ALEC motto here:
Limited Government · Free Markets · Federalism
The design of the Report Card isn’t merely to show which state has had the best performing students. We wanted to give legislators the tools they need to fix their state’s education system.” said Ladner, one of the book’s authors. “This report highlights the most promising and effective reforms that will give all students access to an outstanding education.”
Thankfully, the state supreme court gave the latest Rhee-Jindal-ALEC privatization laws an “F” rather than a “B” and Jindal seems to be none too popular with the people who actually live in the state.