Why is Louisiana’s Education System So Bad?

There are a number of factors that contribute to Louisiana’s poor ranking in education. Find out more about the challenges the state faces and what is being done to improve its education system.

Checkout this video:

Louisiana’s History

Louisiana was admitted into the United States as the 18th state on April 30, 1812. The state has a long and complicated history, which is one of the reasons why the education system is so bad. Louisiana was a French colony until 1762 when it was ceded to Spain.

Pre-Civil War

It is no secret that Louisiana has struggled to create and maintain a quality education system, especially in comparison to other states. While there are many factors that play into this, a large part of the problem can be traced back to Louisiana’s history.

Before the Civil War, Louisiana was a slave state. This meant that the state’s economy depended on slave labor, and as a result, slaves were not given access to education. This created a disparity between white and black Louisianans that has persisted throughout the years.

In the years following the Civil War, Louisiana enacted a number of Jim Crow laws that served to further segregated the state and limit educational opportunities for black Louisianans. It was not until the 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education that public schools in Louisiana were finally desegregated.

However, even after desegregation, black students in Louisiana continued to face discrimination and unequal educational opportunities. In recent years, charter schools have only exacerbated these problems by creating a two-tiered system in which black and low-income students are often left behind.

It is clear that Louisiana’s history has had a profound impact on its education system. In order to truly improve education in the state, it is essential that we understand and learn from this history. Only then can we hope to provide all Louisianans with the quality education they deserve.

Post-Civil War

After the Civil War, Louisiana’s educational system was shaped by a variety of influences, including the state’s large population of newly freed African Americans and limited resources. The state struggled to provide adequate education to all its citizens, and many Louisianans did not receive a formal education.

In 1868, the state constitution granted all children between the ages of 6 and 18 the right to free public education. However, this right was not fully realized until much later. In the 1870s, only about one-quarter of eligible African American children were enrolled in school. White enrollment was also low, at about one-third of eligible children.

By 1900, African American enrollment had increased to 40 percent, but white enrollment had declined to 27 percent. This decline was due in part to the rise of private schools, which were often segregated by race. As a result of these trends, Louisiana’s public schools were disproportionately made up of African American students.

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring that segregated public schools were unconstitutional. This ruling led to desegregation efforts in Louisiana and other southern states. However, these efforts were met with resistance from many whites who did not want their children to attend school with black students.

As a result of these challenges, Louisiana’s public schools remained largely segregated until the late 1960s when a series of federal court orders finally forced integration. While Louisiana’s public schools have been integrated for more than 50 years, they still face many challenges. Today, about three-quarters of Louisiana’s public school students are African American or Hispanic/Latino, and nearly 60 percent are from low-income families.

Louisiana’s Economy

Louisiana’s economy is one of the main reasons why the state’s education system is so bad. The state has a long history of poverty and inequality, which has lead to a lack of funding for public schools. Louisiana also has a large number of charter schools, which are not subject to the same accountability standards as traditional public schools.

Pre-Oil Boom

In the years before the oil boom, Louisiana’s economy was largely based on agriculture, with tobacco, cotton, and sugar cane being the main crops. The state also had a thriving fishing industry. However, all of this changed when oil was discovered in Louisiana in 1901.

Post-Oil Boom

Since the 1970s, Louisiana’s economy has been largely dependent on the oil industry. However, this reliance has led to problems when oil prices fluctuate. For example, when oil prices sharply declined in the 1980s, Louisiana’s economy struggled. In recent years, oil prices have again dropped, causing many Louisiana residents to lose their jobs.

In addition to being reliant on the oil industry, Louisiana’s economy is also hampered by its poor education system. As a result of inadequate funding and under-qualified teachers, Louisiana ranks near the bottom of most national education rankings. This lack of a skilled workforce makes it difficult for Louisiana businesses to compete in the global marketplace.

Despite these challenges, there are some positive signs for Louisiana’s economy. In recent years, there has been an increase in tourism and retirees moving to the state. Additionally, many industries (such as agriculture and fishing) are still thriving in Louisiana.

Louisiana’s Education System

Louisiana’s education system is one of the worst in the country. Louisiana ranks 49th in the nation for high school graduation rates and dead last in the nation for the percentage of students who are college and career ready. In addition, Louisiana spends less per student on education than any other state in the country. So, why is Louisiana’s education system so bad?


Pre-desegregation, Louisiana’s educational system was already struggling. In 1961, the state ranked 50th in the nation in spending per student and 48th in teacher’s salaries. Integration only exacerbated these problems. White flight led to a decline in tax revenue, and many qualified teachers left the state. The flight of middle-class families left behind a poorer, less educated population that was difficult to educate.

Since then, the state has made some strides in improving its education system. However, Louisiana still ranks near the bottom of most measures of educational quality. The state ranks 47th in spending per student, 43rd in the proportion of students who are proficient in reading and math, and 42nd in the proportion of high school students who go on to college. In addition, Louisiana has one of the highest high school dropout rates in the nation.


Desegregation decisions dating back to 1971 led to the massive busing of students in an attempt to balance out the racial makeup of schools. In some cases, this meant that students were being bused hours away from their homes. This system was highly controversial and led to a lot of white flight, as parents chose to send their children to private schools or move to suburban areas rather than have them attend integrated schools.

The busing system was eventually abolished in 1999, but by then the damage had been done. The education system in Louisiana had become highly segregated once again, and today the state has some of the most segregated schools in the country. Many of the problems that plague Louisiana’s education system today can be traced back to this period in history.

Louisiana’s Future

Louisiana has been struggling to keep up with the rest of the country in terms of education for quite some time now. The state ranks near the bottom in most education metrics, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. There are a number of factors that contribute to this problem. Let’s take a closer look.


Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana had one of the lowest-performing and most inequitable education systems in the country. In 2002, less than half of all Louisiana students were proficient in reading, and fewer than 60 percent were proficient in math. Among African American students, those numbers fell to just 32 percent and 38 percent, respectively. disparities in educational outcomes were also among the widest in the nation, with white students more than twice as likely to be proficient in reading and math as their African American counterparts.

In an effort to address these longstanding problems, the state legislature enacted a number of reforms in the early 2000s that aimed to improve both student achievement and equity. These included expanding access to high-quality early childhood education, increasing funding for struggling schools, and creating new accountability mechanisms to hold schools and districts accountable for results.

Unfortunately, these reforms did not generate the desired results. In fact, by the time Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Louisiana’s education system was still struggling. The storm exacerbated many of the existing problems, resulting in widespread displacement of students and educators and a massive disruption to the state’s educational infrastructure.


In the years following Hurricane Katrina, charter schools have proliferated in New Orleans, and the city’s public schools have been reinvented as a mostly charter system. This change was made possible by the Louisiana Legislature’s 2005 decision to allow the state to take over most of the city’s public schools, which were struggling before the storm.

Since then, New Orleans’ public schools have made some academic progress, but they still lag behind schools in other parts of the state and the nation. And there are growing concerns about whether the changes have benefited all students equally.

There are now more than 60 charter schools in New Orleans serving about 37,000 students. That’s a big increase from 2005, when there were only a handful of charter schools serving about 3,000 students.

Scroll to Top