Louisiana Looks to Reinvent High School with Help from the Private Sector

Posted: Aug 03, 2013 3:00 PM

The state of Louisiana is already well known for its evolving approach to public education, but Governor Bobby Jindal is looking to make it even better. The city of New Orleans already has 80 percent of students in charter schools and the state has one of the most extensive voucher programs in the country. But Governor Jindal is looking to take it a step further by including the private sector in the education process.

According to POLITICO:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s latest plans to reinvent public education with the aid of the business community will accelerate this fall with the launch of a novel program that lets high school students take classes from the private sector on the public dime.

State Superintendent John White said Monday that nearly 3,000 students have enrolled in an array of private-sector classes that the state has agreed to pay for, from math and literature to Japanese and German to hair styling, welding and nail manicuring. The classes, which carry regular high school credits, are taught by an eclectic mix of nonprofits, unions, trade associations and for-profit companies, as well as local colleges.

White said he had only budgeted $2 million for the program but would find another $1 million to cover demand, perhaps by leaving some open jobs in the state education department unfilled. And he plans to expand the program substantially next year. White said he is particularly interested in adding more vocational classes, though an analysis of enrollments that the state provided to POLITICO shows one of the most popular offerings is ACT Prep.

Louisiana’s Course Choice program represents a first foray into a new approach to public education as an “a la carte” offering. States including Utah, Idaho and Florida let public-school students take some classes online from approved providers.

But Louisiana aims to go further still, allowing students of all income levels to customize their course lists using taxpayer dollars to pay a broad range of public and private providers for classes they can’t get — or don’t believe are well taught — in their neighborhood schools.

A true innovator when it comes to public education, Bobby Jindal truly understands how to couple the public and private sectors. What Governor Jindal understands is that high school is an important time to try and teach students practical life skills that can be put towards either another level of education or entering the workforce.

The investment in our students is one that benefits the future. I am sure many lawmakers across the country will be looking at Louisiana to see if this works. If there is success in the program, perhaps we will see more states adopting it. And maybe, just maybe, people will start to realize that the government does not always know what is best for us. By allowing students to choose the classes they are interested in and having them learn practical skills will most likely increase their interest in school. Teenagers may actually be more prepared for adult life!

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