School Choice Advocates Concerned New Louisiana Governor Will Roll Back Reforms

Published January 5, 2016

School choice proponents say they have reservations about recently elected Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D).

Edwards, a former state representative, defeated Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter for the governor’s seat in what was widely described as a surprising 56–44 percent upset.

Jeanne Allen, founder and president emeritus of the Center for Education Reform, says the election of Edwards will dampen Louisiana’s charter school movement.

“All signs point to this governor lacking a strong forward compass for school choice,” Allen said. “While the teachers union has less impact than it once did, John Bel Edwards was heavily backed by the unions. That’s problematic because while the rank-and-file teachers in the largest cities such as [New Orleans] are employed by charters, their leaders focus on reducing their ability to open and grow in the Bayou.

“Also of great concern is the governor’s veiled attempt to do the same,” said Allen. “In his first address since winning the election, he’s already said that he wants more ‘accountability’ for charter schools, which really translates into more regulations that burden charter schools and limit the innovation and autonomy that have allowed them to become successful.”

Governer Criticized Voucher Program

“[Bel Edwards] has also recommended scaling back the state’s voucher program, which is critical to many children’s success in school and life and which is already burdened by regulations that limit private-school participation, stifling the high demand for more schools,” said Allen.

“The key to solving our nation’s educational crisis is electing governors who understand they have the power to change a system, and a key part of that equation is choice,” said Allen. “Nothing about this elected governor indicates that he’s willing to do what it takes [to] accelerate the pace of meaningful reform in Louisiana.” 

Kevin Kane, president of the New Orleans-based free-market think tank the Pelican Institute, agrees Edwards will reduce school choice options.

“John Bel Edwards was the favored candidate of the teachers unions, and that does not bode well for advancing school choice in Louisiana,” Kane said.

“It’s worth noting that political will exists from the legislative and business communities to protect the state’s voucher program and other school choice programs from being rolled back,” Kane said.  

Bruce Edward Walker ([email protected]) is a policy analyst for The Heartland Institute.

Image by Michael McCauslin.