Last Modified: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 5:12 PM
Whatever high ground Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration captured in getting approval of a voucher system to help some students escape low-performing public schools is being lost by the ham-handed way it is being implemented.
On Monday, a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education committee approved some guidelines for the program. The full board gave its blessing yesterday in what can easily be described as the horse following the cart.
While the approved guidelines deal with registration, student enrollment and school eligibility, state Superintendent of Education John White admits criteria for judging participating schools is still a work in progress.
That and transparency must be part of the equation; otherwise there will be little or no public confidence in the voucher system.
The issue for vouchers for students from low-income families to move from poor performing public schools to private schools has always been how they would be implemented. Vouchers may work in theory, but they’re not the panacea for all that ails public school education for a multitude of reasons.
Few established, highly successful private schools have indicated they will participate. And those private schools that said they will participate in the program this fall offer spaces for less than 2 percent of the eligible students in Louisiana.
In the meantime, suitability of some private schools has been questioned.
A private school in Ruston, New Living Word School, received preliminary approval by the state Education Department to accept 315 voucher students this fall. That would nearly triple last year’s enrollment, even though the school currently does not have adequate classroom space for the additional students.
Here in Calcasieu Parish, Eternity Christian Academy, which received preliminary approval to handle 135 voucher students, has operated in Westlake for the past two years without a required city occupational license.
And BeauVer Christian Academy in Beauregard Parish operated during the 2011-12 school year while violating safety and fire code violations and ignoring official requests by the state Fire Marshal’s Office to cease and desist occupancy. BeauVer was preliminarily approved for 119 vouchers.
All of these private schools have been put in a Catch 22. They won’t find out for another two weeks the number of voucher students they’ve been approved to enroll. In the meantime, schools can’t totally prepare, i.e., build classroom buildings or order temporary ones, sign teachers to contracts or make final arrangements to feed students. And the clock is ticking toward on the opening of the 2012-13 school year in august.
While the quality of education at Eternity Christian and BeauVer remains unknown, their administrations’ ability to follow standard rules can be questioned. This, in turn, challenges the state’s desire and ability to maintain oversight.
Public school administrators and teachers have complained that private schools don’t have to play by the same rules as public schools. Examples like Eternity Christian and BeauVer bolster that argument and erode public confidence in the voucher program.
The program not only needs transparency to determine how well these private schools are educating their students, but also assurances from the Education Department of the schools’ overall suitability.
The governor argues that families can make that decision.
But when taxpayers’ money is going to fund vouchers, it’s not just about family approval, it’s about whether taxpayer money is being spent wisely.
Until there is a mechanism in place to determine that, the jury will remain out on the entire voucher program.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.
Posted By: Peter On: 9/12/2012
Title: Kruschev, Get a Grip: The issue isn't ownership; it's competence
The issue isn't whether the schools are public or private; it's whether they're competent or incompetent. I'm not against private schools; thanks to a generous scholarship both of my son't attended an excellent private school.
But that's the point; it was more than an excellent private school; it was an excellent school. The curriculum was excellent, the teachers were excellent, the sports teams were excellent, and the facilities were excellent. The science classes were rigorous and based on science, not religion.
The real problem is not that some schools are "public" and others are "private:" it's that some will educate the children and others will not. Creationism teaches us nothing about how the world works. It doesn't tell us how we got here --- "God did it, end of story." --- nor does it tell us where we are going --- "The Rapture will come soon." And, worst of all, it discourages, and sometimes forbids, independent thought and creativity.
I'm not going to give you the long and detailed argument about the US needing a trained workforce, creative thinkers, flexibility of capital, and the rest. I'm going to make it very brief, When a Chinese or Indian engineer costs $10 per hour, including all benefits, and an American engineer costs $30, we must be either three times as productive, or people will move their businesses to India and China. For example, already Microsoft has moved one of its research laboratories to India. And why not, when they can get an engineer with superior PhD there for the same price as they get an engineer with a Bachelors degree here?
We aren't going to get three-times-as-productive engineers and scientists we need from these academies (fraudsters). Several will use the Abeka books. One of their flyers claims not to teach "modern theories" such as "set theory." Set theory is not a "new" theory and it is integral to many other parts of mathematics. If set theory concerns them this much, I suggest that they also drop the teaching of 0 (zero) which came to us from the Muslims and so may be tainted with Sharia law. (Try that on your checkbook.)
Posted By: Noel Hammatt On: 9/1/2012
Title: Accountability is a two-way street: Or should be!
It is interesting to note the sarcasm of those who freely criticize public education, and the public schools, while totally releasing all accountability for the private and parochial schools that have no proven track records at all. There is a large body of research that points to one powerful, immutable fact. That is that the academic achievement of students, measured by standardized test scores, is influenced to a much greater extent by factors outside of school, than by the schools themselves. In the largest studies, when accounting for differences in the experiences of students outside of schools, (poverty, books in the home, parental education levels, et cetera) there is almost no difference in their achievement when comparing students in private, parochial, or public schools. Same thing for charters. The difference in scores between students is most often a function of the outside influences on students, To see examples of how the studies play out, see educatorsforall.org and explore and learn a bit about the research. Congratulations to the editors for holding all schools accountable.
Posted By: Larry Linn On: 7/15/2012
Title: Larry Linn
Wait until the Christian voucher advocates discover that their tax money will be going to Muslim students attending school in mosques.
Posted By: Kruschev On: 6/20/2012
Title: Concerned Citizen
Fellow Comrades of Politburo Lake Charles American Pravda Press:
Thank you for pointing out problems with capitalist, sabotaging private education. Of course education should be state run and controlled. It has worked well for decades. Never does state run system graduate student that cant read, cant write or cant count goats. Never does state run education system allow for dropouts. All students are well prepared for career, military or college in state system. Why need change? Now is not good time to move from such well performing system and let parents have choice.
Choice is bad. And consumers cannot make good choices. Think about what you see everyday in your sad country? Some private business startup. Some go out of business. Some provide good service. Some provide bad service. Why is this? Private system is not perfect and customers not good and quick at choosing which business works for them and crushing those that don't. And much money is lost on bad business(even your wealthy business merely steal poor customer’s money only, else how make them money!). All this choice, choice, choice is wasteful of rubles!
On other hand, you have perfect government - it never go out of business. Government always run and get bigger. Therefore, government must make no mistakes and show customers and citizens what is good for them. Have you ever heard of government making mistake and going out of business? Nyet!
Private school voucher same way. It will have many startup problems, and make many mistakes. We should not risk such mistakes or risk choice for consumers and parents. If things don’t start perfect, we should crush private voucher system now and move back to perfect government schools. No time to innovate when there is most excellent state school to attend. (I do not believe what the Capitalist spies tell us about “failing schools” – again, I’ve never seen government school go out of business). No waste of tax rubles in state system of course! Thus you are right to question only "suitability" of capitalist's ruble-sucking school because government school is perfect alternative!