Louisiana’s Democratic governor, Jon Bel Edwards, has removed the funding for at least 17 impoverished families shortly before the beginning of the school year. One child, Nicole Jack, already has her uniforms ($300 worth) for the school she desired to attend.
“My daughter is very gifted. She makes straight A’s, she reads beyond her grade level, so she deserves to go to a better school,” Nikesha Hudson, Nicole’s mother, told WDSU News. The Louisiana Scholarship Program promised $4,800 in tuition, so she paid $300 to get her daughter the uniforms to attend Our Lady of Prompt Succor this fall.
“I got the email saying she did get the scholarship,” Hudson said. But that email also warned that her child’s placement for the school “depends upon the continuation of funding for the Louisiana Scholarship Program for the 2016-17 school year.”
Hudson became concerned after receiving no further correspondence from the school. “They looked at the list and my daughter’s name wasn’t on the list,” the mother confided. The school’s representative reportedly told her, “Well maybe she’s one of the kids that got cut.”
Parents who care for the future of their children and have little faith in the state’s public education system pursue school choice scholarships like the one promised to Nikesha Hudson. This program allows them to send their kids to private schools like the Catholic one she chose for her daughter.
The state’s Democratic governor, however, has been a loyal friend of the unions, which oppose reforms to hold teachers accountable and to offer parents more freedom to send their children to whichever schools they prefer.
While running for governor, Edwards needed to convince his conservative state to elect him over scandal-plagued Republican Senator David Vitter. In order to do this, Edwards promised to protect the school choice program, and voters were convinced.
“The governor said no child would lose the scholarship because of the budget cuts,” Hudson recalled. She added that the school did not send a letter to notify the parents, because the state would do so, but that letter didn’t come until less than a month before the school year.
“I don’t know what to do because I have all these uniforms, and my daughter is crushed because she thought she was going to that school,” Hudson added.
Governor Edwards should not have broken his promise, but it is consistent with his pro-union record.
In 2008, he voted against a $10 million authorization for private and parochial scholarships for low-income students in New Orleans. The bill passed without him, but he continued to oppose such reforms.
In 2010, he fought a bill to allow schools to request waivers from state regulations in order to boost academic achievement. Edwards argued that loosening such restrictions would create “havoc.” Again, the bill passed despite his opposition.
He then introduced a bill that would add onerous restrictions to the state’s charter school system, which went nowhere. Governor Bobby Jindal proposed reforms to improve accountability in the public school system, and Edwards opposed them.
Next Page: How unions rewarded their crony, and why he isn’t saving money by cutting school choice programs.
When this union stooge announced his run for governor, even out-of-state unions poured money into his campaign. Political commentator Jeremy Alford declared that union spending “could potentially become a second source of organization and money outside the Democratic Party for Edwards.”
Ten of the 27 bills in Edward’s first gubernatorial legislative package were related to K-12 education and towed the union line. “No other public policy area — including health care and criminal justice — got that many bills backed by the governor,” the Times-Picayune reported.
The conservative legislature blocked Edwards’ bills, but Louisiana’s governor is one of the most powerful in any state. The governor could still use the budget to defund school choice, and has done so.
Ironically, as National Review’s Ellen Carmichael argued, the state actually saves money through the Louisiana Scholarship Program. Governor Edwards’ team removed the $4,800 scholarship from 17 families who wanted to give their kids a better life. Louisiana spends $10,490 for each pupil enrolled in the public school system.
“If Nicole Jack cannot escape the school’s waitlist in time, her education will cost the state more than double what they insist they’re trying to save, proving yet again that it’s not about dollars and cents,” Carmichael explained.
Edwards isn’t actually saving money, but he is supporting his political allies, and mothers like Nikesha Hudson have to pay the price for his duplicity.