Money Well Spent


This month Louisiana will see a new Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) sworn in. It promises to be a contentious term as struggles over education reform, common core and charter schools intensify. The only certainty is that a forest will be needlessly cut down to supply all the paper.

Instead of an imposed from the top “reform” that will ultimately leave the status quo alone, I’d like to change the culture by using targeted incentives. They would not be mandatory, a school district would lose none of their funding if they chose not to implement any of the suggestions, but they would be leaving money on the table. They would also have to explain why their system chose not to participate. Transparency and easily understood specific goals would be a refreshing change. The money would be paid to the district to do with what they wished, with the proviso that what was done with the money was to be a public record.  Here’s what I’d propose.

$1,000.00 per year for every student attending the Louisiana School for Math Science and the Arts. I would also count that student as still in his/her home school for purposes of MFP funding and testing.  There would be a one-time $10,000.00 bonus if that student’s home school had not had a student attend the LSMSA in the past 10 years, or in the case of a newly opened school, was the first student to attend the LSMSA.

$500.00 for every teacher hired or currently teaching who passed the NTE or Praxis tests on their first try, increased to $750.00 for every year they teach in a school with a 75% or greater free or reduced price lunch population.

$1,000.00 for every teacher hired who scored at, or above, the 95 percentile on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), General Management Admissions Test (GMAT), Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)  or Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT.) In addition, that teacher would be exempted from having to take the Praxis tests. The district would also receive an additional $1,000.00 for every year that teacher taught in a school in which at least 75% of the students receive free or reduced price lunches.

$1,000.00 for every student who is chosen as a Commended Student in the National Merit Scholarship Program, to increase to $1,500.00 should that student go on to be named  as a semi-finalist or finalist. Should the student earn a National Merit Scholarship, the amount would be increased to $5,000.00. These amounts would double if the student came from a school in which at least 75% of the students receive free or reduced price lunches. Should the student be enrolled in The Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts (LSMSA), the money would be paid to both the student’s home district and the LSMSA.

$750.00 for each Advanced Placement Exam in which the student earns a score of 3 or better.

$1,000.00 for every student who signs a letter of intent and attends a 4 year college on an athletic scholarship where his/her ACT or SAT score is no more than 10% below the average for that college’s freshman class.

$1,000.00 for every student participating in the Duke University Talent Identification Program, renewable for each additional year the student participates. That amount would increase to $1,500.00 if the student is from a school in which at least 75% of the students receive free or reduced price lunches.

$5,000.00 for any student who is selected as a semi-finalist in the Intel STS (Science Talent Search) with an additional $5,000.00 per student selected should the student be chosen as a finalist or to attend the Intel Science and Engineering Fair.

By Kevin Shannahan