Fighting Poverty with Passion
This month was a productive one for OPEN. We have welcomed our executive director back from her sabbatical, which has greatly revived the energy around the office.
On March 5, we hosted our 2015 Legislative Breakfast. In years past, these were held at outside venues, which has cost significant time and money. I am proud to say that this time around, we pulled off our first legislative breakfast in-house. Our largest conference room supposedly holds a maximum of 40, which was initially cause for anxiety. But, we circumvented the problem by renting hip-looking bar tables, more chairs, and arranging them in tight rows. With some thoughtful flowers and decorative linens, we made the room quite inviting.
60 people ended up attending. Despite the cramped conditions, the event itself turned out a great success. Wesley Bishop, Seth Bloom, and Joseph Bouie kindly contributed to the dialogue about public education. Key stakeholders and local members filled the room with energy, posing very important questions to our panelists. I am proud to have supported the event from behind the scenes, from arranging the room to ordering the breakfast; to summarizing the policy priorities that eventually became the featured powerpoint.
The process of putting together the content was rewarding in the sense that it helped me understand OPEN better. As I said from the start, and repeat every month, the entirety of the work here is difficult to grasp. Through researching for LB, I have been exposed to a variety of articles about issues in education that make me feel more comfortable with my role at OPEN. On a personal level, it is satisfying to see myself become more well-versed with the complex issues in this department. Education in Louisiana truly has a long way to go. To name a few concerns, there is a great minority of teacher preparation programs in Louisiana that are up to national standard, Louisiana has one of the lowest rates of black male graduation, and, as our LB panelists confirmed, our education budget has shrunk significantly since Jindal entered office. Later this month, I learned that competition amongst charter schools in New Orleans does not produce the ideal effect we all hoped for: instead of improving academic quality, it seems that school leaders focus more on marketing strategies as a way to attract students. This month, the truth struck me harder than ever: the battle for equitable and excellent schools in New Orleans is far from over.