‘Failure’ Is a Relative Term for Louisiana’s Private School Voucher Scheme

by Dan Quinn

Vouchers drain tax dollars from neighborhood public schools to pay for tuition at private and religious schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers and not held to the same standards as public schools. State rules just issued for Louisiana’s radical new voucher scheme are a case in point — especially when it comes to defining and setting consequences for “failure.”

The Lone Star State’s neighbor to the east will allow students in “failing” public schools to use tuition vouchers — at an average cost to taxpayers of $8,000 each — to enroll in private and religious schools. But while the performance of public schools is rated based on the results of standardized tests their students must take, voucher students won’t be subject to similar testing unless their new schools enroll a certain number of such students.

Moreover, voucher students won’t even take the same standardized tests that public school students must take. And voucher students can still be promoted to the next grade even if they fail their version of the tests.

In fact, private and religious schools can continue to accept taxpayer-funded vouchers even if their students are failing the tests. And most voucher schools will face no state penalties for failure — they simply have to post the average scores.

The rules include a variety of other specifics, but the bottom line is that Louisiana officials have decided to redefine failure for taxpayer-subsidized private and religious schools, giving them an advantage over neighborhood public schools. Of course, maybe that’s necessary since some of the religious schools accepting vouchers teach, among other absurdities, that the Loch Ness monster is real and is evidence against evolution.

Remember all of this when the voucher lobby in Texas demands passage of a similar scheme in the 2013 legislative session. In 2011 they tried to pass a bill that would have provided more state tax dollars for educating a student in a private or religious school than in a public school. So don’t be surprised when they propose a scheme that doesn’t hold voucher schools to the same academic standards that public schools have to meet. After all, their goal is to undermine public education — just like what is happening in Louisiana.