Last Modified: Friday, August 03, 2012 6:19 PM
Newspapers throughout the land continue to take their watchdog responsibilities seriously.
The American Press did just that earlier this summer after members of the public provided tips that two private schools in Southwest Louisiana that had applied to the state’s voucher program had serious problems.
The Louisiana Department of Education gave preliminary approval for Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake to accept 135 voucher students and BeauVer Christian Academy in DeRidder to accept 119 of those students.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform package that state lawmakers approved earlier this year included allowing parents of students at low-performing public schools to qualify for state vouchers that could be applied to help cover tuition for their children to for private schools.
Two other private schools — St. Theodore’s Catholic School in Moss Bluff and Our Lady’s School in Sulphur — also applied to accept voucher students.
But tipsters said Eternity Christian and BeauVer had suitability issues.
Our investigation found that Eternity Christian had never acquired a city occupational license, a requirement for a business or nonpublic school in Westlake.
The school was asking to nearly quadruple its enrollment after boasting a student population of 34 students for the 2011-2012 season.
Eternity Christian’s Accelerated Christian Education biology curriculum, which uses the Scotland’s fabled Loch Ness monster as an argument against evolution, also raised eyebrows and generated chuckles.
State Superintendent of Education John White said Eternity Christian’s voucher request was rejected because it did not have the space to handle the voucher students it requested, nor had a permit for any facility that would house the students.
The American Press’ investigation of records found that BeauVer had failed a fire marshal’s occupancy inspection in June, 2011 and had been asked to cease occupancy in January, 2012 because of safety issues and fire code violations. As of July 12, BeauVer had still been unable to pass the fire marshal’s inspection.
White said BeauVer’s condition was poor, it did not have space for the new students it has applied for and it had a ‘‘managerial responsibility condition.’’
Given that these schools’ management couldn’t handle basic business rudiments, White had no choice but to deny their applications for voucher students.
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.