A Baton Rouge millionaire, Lane Grigsby, is banking on the purchase of Louisiana’s state school board in this October’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education election. He’s got help from his friends: Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad and Walmart heirs Jim and Alice Walton. In his October filing with the Louisiana ethics administration, Mr. Grigsby through his one-man political action committee, Empower Louisiana, is facilitating the spending of over $400,000 of Walton money and $250,000 of Mr. Broad’s money. The Waltons contributed an additional $325,000 to a like-minded political action committee called Louisiana Federation for Children.
What Mr. Grigsby and his out-of-state friends have in common is big talk about raising standards, but don’t let them fool you. This is not about raising standards, this is about establishing a corporate welfare system for charter schools, private school operators and testing and textbook companies at the expense of the Louisiana taxpayer. This is about advocating for the sub-standard, standardized products of the education-industrial age that sacrifice quality for quantity. Democratically controlled neighborhood schools are the new “buy local” and the Walmart Waltons will have none of it. They will claim ‘failure’, shut your local school, and authorize a for-profit charter or issue unaccountable vouchers.
Many of us are at odds with our own democracy because we see the process dictated to us by money and ideological zealots. When the zealotry is devoid of a deeper intellectual understanding of the science of educating children and has every appearance of being a pursuit of profit at the expense of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, we are at a critical impasse.
It is time to re-evaluate this ‘Big Box’ approach and put education back in the hands of parents and educators.
Kathleen Schott Espinoza, Lafayette