‘I love my children’

I sat in the back row of a church last week listening to LeAnn Mason talk about her daughters and her dreams for them.

“I have two children in private and one who didn’t get a scholarship and remains in public. The teachers here at Hosanna Christian Academy are caring and have support. My babies are reading, writing cursive and blossoming. This is going to help my children out of poverty. This program wasn’t here when I was growing up. And when I hear they are trying to take this away, it hurts. I love my children and I want the best for them and I want to see my other daughter get into the scholarship program. And I thank everyone who helped make this possible and I thank God.”

My heart was in my throat.

To see a video of her full comments:

Many of us take a good education for granted, but this mom was so excited for her children and her voice had a ring of hope. And I could sense the pride she had in being a good mom doing what is best for her children.

This took place at a public meeting that state superintendent John White was holding to discuss the state’s scholarship program, which now serves about 5,000 children in Louisiana. The stories from parents would bring tears to your eyes. I estimated about 100 people had come out in the cold rain, some parents with children using the vouchers to attend the school of their choice and others who wanted to learn about this opportunity. The crowd included blacks and whites, and some people who came from as far away as Tangipahoa Parish.

Parent after parent praised the program and the teachers and shared the progress their children had made. They were proud parents and satisfied customers (and taxpayers). So why would anyone want to take such a program away from the parent who claimed, “This is my child’s way out of poverty”?

State officials who attended included Rep. Steve Carter, Rep. Valerie Hodges and Sen. Bodi White. The Black Alliance for Educational Options and the American Federation for Children also helped provide parents with information to know their options and use their voices in the process. White, as well as Eric Lewis of BAEO, made it clear that the program many of these parents love so much is under attack. Lewis said, “There are folks who get up every morning and their mission is to come into your home and take away your right to choose the best school for your child. We ask you to fight to stop them.”

White pointed out that the scholarship dollars are your tax dollars and you should be able to use them to get a good education for your child. The crowd erupted with applause.

I noticed there were a couple of television stations covering the event, including WAFB-TV and WVLA-FOX 44, but The Advocate was not to be found. (May have been too much positive news on how education reform is working in Louisiana for their taste.)

According to AmiteToday.com, Tangipahoa School Board member Brett Duncan said about his system’s lawsuit to stop the scholarship program: “My position is that our particular board has much more important things to focus its money and attention on other than keeping students in our worst-performing schools from having an alternative place to get their education. When the board has fixed its own numerous and devastating problems, perhaps then it will have the moral authority to fight the voucher issue.”

While the enemies are lined up to do battle to protect jobs, turn back the clock and hurt children’s chances for success by denying the parents choices, we are fortunate to have a talented team on the field to play offense and defense—and you can help, too.

The team of leaders includes Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose vision for education reform and school choice has drawn national attention and praise. Also on the team are Rep. Steve Carter, Sen. Conrad Appel, new BESE president Chas Roemer and White. They are backed by a strong coalition of organizations in our state, as well as individual business leaders. The army is growing to protect children, and it will be needed for the upcoming legislative session.

Coming to Baton Rouge on April 17 to lend her voice at the second annual Louisiana Leadership for Change! Education Summit will be former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Details will be announced in the next several weeks, according to Carter. Mark your calendar and plan to visit your legislator that day as well.

OK, that’s my grade for The Advocate on their reporting of Education Week’s Quality Counts 2013 report. The headline on Will Sentell’s story was “Study gives state F for achievement.” So, out of 24 different grades given to Louisiana in the report, including an overall grade of C+, The Advocate headline noted the only F. Coincidence?

Even in the second paragraph of the story, Sentell wrote, “However, better grades in other areas allowed the state to finish 15th in the nation in the rankings, up from 23rd last year and 44th in 2008.” So the “rest of the story” is that we ranked 15th out of 50 states, up eight spots from last year and up 29 spots from 2008, when Gov. Bobby Jindal took office. And the overall grade, considering 24 categories, was a C+, with the highest grade given to any state being a B+ (Maryland). Louisiana finished above the national average and ahead of California, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Alabama, New Hampshire and Maine.

Yet The Advocate headline went out of its way to imply Louisiana failed and was at the bottom.

A journalist said to me, “Technically, the headline is correct.” But is it a fair representation? The Advocate story wasn’t about one category, and the survey was on overall results and progress. The K-12 achievement is very important, and no one is satisfied with an F. But in Standards & Accountability the grade for Louisiana was A. For Early Childhood Education, the grade was A-. Aren’t those important to future achievement? For Teaching Profession, the state’s grade was B-. And are not teachers important to Louisiana’s progress and future success?

If you think I am just picking on The Advocate, consider how two other major news organizations in Louisiana chose to represent the report. The Times-Picayune‘s Jan. 10 headline for the story read “Louisiana’s rank rises on national education quality report card.” On The Associated Press wire, the headline was “Education Week survey gives Louisiana schools a ‘C’.”

Those headlines are fair and balanced, and they point to the overall significance of Louisiana’s grades, not to one detail of the report. I’ll let you decide who deserves the F.

I watched a video on television last week of a July 3, 2008, speech by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.

He accused the Bush administration of “taking a credit card at Bank of China.” Obama said the United States built $5 trillion in debt over 42 presidents—and that Bush had “added $4 trillion by his lonesome.” In his campaign speech, he criticized President George W. Bush for $9 trillion in debt and said “that is $30,000 for every man, woman and child. It’s irresponsible. It’s unpatriotic.”

So, now as president, how does Obama feel when he looks at his own $16 trillion debt—up $7 trillion—which now equals $52,000 for every man, woman and child in America?

What an “irresponsible, unpatriotic” hypocrite.

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