States Race to the Bottom

Education Ideas and Issues Legislation Politics

            New Orleans     Big headline in my local newspaper in New Orleans focused on the fact that Louisiana had moved up the ladder in the United States ranking on the education report card.  We had moved from 46th to 42nd, our highest ranking since 2003.  Sometimes it’s the little things that matter.

Why is this news, you might wonder?  Well, having spent a lot of my life in the South between Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and the rest, depending on the category in everything but SEC sports, these states would trade off between 47, 48, 49, and, way too often, 50.  Pretty much if it weren’t for Alabama, we always be at the bottom of the barrel.  Being 42 among all the 50 in education, believe me, that’s high cotton.

Of course, there’s a downside to this celebration for Louisiana, the Sportsman’s Paradise, as our license plates herald.  We didn’t so much do anything better, as a bunch of other states did considerably worse.  Our fourth grades did mosey up 2 points, leading the nation, because the rest of the gang fell by an average of 3 points.  Our fourth grades fell by 3 points, while nationally the scores plummeted by 5 points.  It was pretty much this way down the line.  We were down 6 in eight grade math, but nationally the decline was precipitous at 8 points.  Reading we edged down by a point, but the national average dropped 3.  See what I mean?  In Louisiana, we took a beating pretty much across the board, but other states managed to get to the bottom faster than we did for a change.  Small comfort.

Mainly, we did better just because we didn’t do as poorly in the pandemic, which has hammered educational performance across the country.  Once again, not a surprise.  When you close schools, rely on the internet, which many in the broke ass Southern states don’t have, and run short of teachers willing to put up with this for long hours and low pay, students are going to lose ground on their learning.  Sadly, there’s no reason to believe that we can necessarily stay at the exalted 42 position based on what we are really doing in our charter school ladened educational operation.

This race to the bottom stuff, just doesn’t work here in the ruby red states.  Politicians, educators, and business people all talk about going up, but they still don’t actually do anything to help folks get there.  Education is part of it, but take wages as another example.  What state other than Arkansas in the deep south has moved wages over the federal $7.25 per hour minimum?  None.  Unions are about as popular with the business set as the anti-Christ.  Unemployment, welfare, and other social supports are pretty much pathetic.

This is the way we roll.  It’s too bad we’re so adept at racing to the bottom.  There has to be a better way.