Louisiana Abandons Public Schools, Shifts $Millions to Private and Religious Schools

Because of a lot of hard work by the Texas Freedom Network, our partners in the Coalition for Public Schools, and pro-public education lawmakers, the Texas Legislature has never passed a private school voucher scheme that would drain hundreds of millions of dollars from already cash-strapped neighborhood public schools. But taxpayers in neighboring Louisiana will soon be shelling out big money in a vast voucher scheme to privatize education there.

Parents who hope to use the new vouchers to send their children to the state’s best private schools this fall shouldn’t hold their breath. Most of those schools have very few openings for Louisiana’s new voucher students. (This shouldn’t be a surprise. The best private schools cherry-pick their students. They can turn away students they don’t want and/or have no room for. Public schools take all the students who show up at their doors.)

According to a Reuters article, the most openings are at smaller and less prestigious religious schools — many with some rather questionable approaches to education:

The school willing to accept the most voucher students — 314 — is New Living Word in Ruston, which has a top-ranked basketball team but no library. Students spend most of the day watching TVs in bare-bones classrooms. Each lesson consists of an instructional DVD that intersperses Biblical verses with subjects such chemistry or composition.

The Upperroom Bible Church Academy in New Orleans, a bunker-like building with no windows or playground, also has plenty of slots open. It seeks to bring in 214 voucher students, worth up to $1.8 million in state funding.

At Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, pastor-turned-principal Marie Carrier hopes to secure extra space to enroll 135 voucher students, though she now has room for just a few dozen. Her first- through eighth-grade students sit in cubicles for much of the day and move at their own pace through Christian workbooks, such as a beginning science text that explains “what God made” on each of the six days of creation. They are not exposed to the theory of evolution.

“We try to stay away from all those things that might confuse our children,” Carrier said.

Other schools approved for state-funded vouchers use social studies texts warning that liberals threaten global prosperity; Bible-based math books that don’t cover modern concepts such as set theory; and biology texts built around refuting evolution.

Tax dollars will now subsidize those Louisiana nonpublic schools. Students who can’t get into even those voucher schools will be left behind in struggling public schools that Gov. Bobby Jindal and other Louisiana officials seem to have decided to starve or abandon rather than work to fix. State officials claim that the voucher scheme will save money, but they have conducted no fiscal analysis to back up that claim. They haven’t even developed a plan for holding voucher schools accountable for the academic progress of the students they will now claim to educate at taxpayer expense. Frankly, it’s hard not to weep over an entire generation of Louisiana schoolchildren being sold down the bayou.

So will Texans see a scheme like this offered in the 2013 legislative session? Voucher advocates like WallBuilders founder and history revisionist David Barton seem to hope so. Barton is touting the Louisiana scheme on his Twitter account:

In slashing billions of dollars in funding from public schools last year, Gov. Perry and the Texas Legislature made it clear that public education isn’t a priority for them. That’s why TFN and other public education advocates will be on high alert as the 2013 legislative session gets closer. Our message will be clear: don’t drain money from neighborhood public schools to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools that aren’t accountable to taxpayers and that don’t have to meet the same standards as public schools. You either support public education or you support private school vouchers. Period.

6 thoughts on “Louisiana Abandons Public Schools, Shifts $Millions to Private and Religious Schools

  1. It’s so ironic. The religious wackos cause so many problems, and they blame all those problems on “the left.”

  2. Louisiana’s new (Republican) school voucher law clearly conflicts with at least two sections of the state constitution, for which Gov Jindal and his party have little respect. Jindal and his gang of marry pirates did not even have the decency to propose an appropriate amendment to the state constitution so that the voters could say yea or nay. We can assume that they are aware that tens of millions of voters from coast to coast have rejected vouchers or their variants by two to one in 26 statewide raferenda. So Jindal and Co are just giving the one-finget salute to Louisiana voters and public schools and religious freedom. — Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty

  3. The Comstitutional problems are obvious, but it’s always nice to have a second arrow in the quiver, to reach those who think ‘separation’ is an ‘evul libbbral plot’ and ‘accountability’ might be the key.

    I keep hearing — frequently from non-religious homeschoolers — that ‘my state insists that such students — either homeschooled or in private academies — must pass the same tests as are required of public school students” but they never answer “…or what?” Are such schools closed? Are homeschoolers told they can no longer homeschool but must send their children for real education? Or are they merely told to ‘repeat the grade and come back next year?’

    And what if a literature course includes as ‘required reading’ a book which ‘offends the religious sensibilities’ of parents or schools?

    And just as a question, hardly implying ‘good Christian Parents’ might cheat but how are such tests administered? Are homeschooled students pr ‘academy’ syudents brought to a centralized location and tested outside the possible influence of parents or teachers or administrators?

    It strikes me that parents who have children in public schools but see no problem with the Jindal plan might bedin to question it on these other grounds. “My kid worked his rounded parts flat trying to pass his exam. I want to make sure these kids don’t get a free ride my kid didn’t.”

  4. None of that matters Jim. Jesus is the answer. Last can of peas on the shelf is dented? Jesus is the answer.

    Don’t yooz knows that weez is alivin in eeyund toms? Jesus could show up any minute. Why educate children for a world that ain’t even a gonna be here no more come very soon?

  5. Edd, as you know federal law trumps state law. The SCOTUS has ruled in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris that failing school districts can adopt a private voucher program, so the Louisiana Blaine Amendment is irrelevant. The Texas Constitution has the same Blaine Amendment. My problem is that–as I understand it–the law requires that the failing school districts must first be demonstrated to be failing by explicit, evidence-based criteria (such as state-mandated standardized tests that are repeatedly failed, the Republican long strategy). I don’t think this was done in Louisiana; instead, the Louisiana governor and legislature just claimed the schools were “failing” without providing any evidence. So I agree that the vouchers are illegal but for a different reason.

  6. Well, I am half mistaken and the situation is worse than I thought. I wrote a friend of mine, Rob Boston, who is a senior policy analyst at Americans United, and he set me straight. I am correct that federal court law (the 2002 Supreme Court Zelman v. S-H decision on vouchers) trumps the Blaine Amendments in state constitutions, such as Louisiana’s and Texas’s, but I was wrong that a school district has to be failing to start a voucher program. In fact, any state can start a voucher program that gives the money to parents to use as they want for any choice of schools, including religious ones. The original decision applied to a failing school district, but the SC did not say that voucher programs must be limited to that condition. So the Texas Legislature could indeed start a voucher program despite the prohibitions against it in the Texas Constitution, and the Louisiana could and did do exactly that.