Saying No to Private School Vouchers

It doesn’t look like many Louisiana families are anxious to join their state’s elected leaders in abandoning public schools. It appears that the state’s radical new private school voucher scheme has attracted just 10,000 applications out of 450,000 students. Moreover, about 1,000 of those applicants already participate in an existing voucher program limited to New Orleans.

Education reform advocate Diane Ravitch isn’t impressed.

“Not exactly a stampede for the exits. No big rush to enroll in the little church schools that are supposedly better than the public schools that [Louisiana Superintendent] John White supervises.”

So far, Ravitch notes, private and religious schools in the state have said they will enroll only new 5,000 voucher students this coming year. Eventually, however, the voucher scheme could divert tens of millions of tax dollars from public schools to pay for tuition at private and religious schools.

We have already reported about the questionable approaches to education taken by some of the religious schools accepting those vouchers. Those schools also won’t be required to meet academic and testing standards expected of public schools. Ravitch notes some of the growing concerns:

“One of the prime movers of the ‘reform’ movement in Louisiana, Leslie Jacobs, complained a year ago that the voucher schools in New Orleans were getting poor results. She called for performance standards for the voucher schools. But it doesn’t seem likely to happen on a state level. The governor and the commissioner don’t want to interfere in the private schools, other than to send money. They want to hold the public schools accountable to standards, but allow students [to] leave for nonpublic schools with no standards or accountability.

It is also unclear whether the state will expect the voucher schools to teach modern science or will be content to see thousands of public school students taught Creationism.”

Voucher advocates in Texas pushed in 2011 for a scheme that would have provided so-called “taxpayer savings grants” to students attending private and religious schools. Their proposed bill in the Texas Legislature would have essentially required the state of Texas to spend (not counting local or federal funds) more for a student to attend a private or religious school than a public school. The Legislature was already in the process of slashing billions of dollars in funding from the state’s public schools. That voucher bill never got out of committee, but we expect an even more aggressive push by the pro-voucher lobby in 2013.

8 thoughts on “Saying No to Private School Vouchers

  1. As a resident of LA I am appalled that my tax dollars will be poured into these tax-exempt institutions. Am I wrong in thinking this new law should at the very least be amended to tax these sheep factories??  

    Christian Eternity Academy has been rumored to receive 135 vouchers. It’s enrollment last year..38. So MY tax dollars now pay to indoctrinate over 300% more students!! How is it not a violation of Separation of Church and State to funnel federal funds into a school that declares in its mission statement to provide “a quality faith-based curriculum that is soley [sic] based on principles from the Bible …”???? On a positive note, New Living Word in Ruston, LA which touts of a top-ranked basketball team, has expressed interest in obtaining the most vouchers for one school. 314 students may now have the opportunity to shoot some hoops with some of our states greatest b-ballers.. the only downside? This school has no library and curriculum is taught primarily through bible verse riddled misinforming instructional DVDs. Sounds like a step in the right direction toward a better quality education to me!! 

    Who will monitor whether these funds are in fact being used for their intended purpose? The state or the church parish? And since these schools will now receive federal monies will they now be required to adhere to the same curriculum and standardized testing they were formerly exempt from? Will teachers at these  voucher-approved schools being required to hold the same qualifications as public school teachers? From my understanding, only 1 Jewish school (which had no available openings remaining when I checked) and 5 non-faith based schools were on the list of 120+ approved schools. The one Islamic academy withdrew their request to participating in the program after remarks put forth ever so elegantly by Kenneth Harvey…”I won’t go back to home and explain to my people that I supported this [program that] will fund Islamic teaching.” this from the Republican LA State Representative who actively advocated the law before learning the Islamic school had been approved. It’s not just Republicans want a cookie-cutter image of which schools should be approved. Democratic Representative Sam Jones vagrantly voiced his opposition allowing a wide variety of faith-based private schools approval by saying “It’ll be the Church of Scientology next year”. These comments only prove that our state government is only willing to overlook the promises of “The Treaty of Tripoli” if the religion is comparable to their collective own. 

    Of these 120 schools the closest non-faith based one to my home is over 70 miles away and does not have available spots for my three children(no non-faith schools do). My children all attend schools with below average scores, oversized classrooms, and unqualified, unmotivated teachers. Luckily, due to efforts by my husband and myself and their natural (not god-given) intellect, their educational and critical thinking development far exceeds the school average. What if other parents are not so lucky. If I were a struggling single mother with children enrolled in a failing school faced with the choice of allowing my child to continue suffering with inadequate educational resources or force them to participate in a school that while possibly(just maybe) offers a higher quality education, skews reality and hinders free thinking. It is a lose-lose situation.

    After a little research on the ‘A Beka Book’ textbook books that a number of these schools use as part of their curriculum, my frustration quickly evolved into rage. So..just to clarify, not only is my money funding a religious organization against my will, but it will be used to purchase scientifically inaccurate garbage designed to saturate young minds with nonsense and subdue free thinking?? I just happened to come across a few A Beka Book books, granted these are not the textbooks used in schools but “free reading” type books. I snuggled up with “Liberty Tree”, grabbed my trusty highlighter, and set out to concentrate on only blatant attempts of brainwashing or obvious inaccuracies. I paused a moment to rationalize the comprehension of a fourth grader and vowed to be as unbiased as possible. Let’s just say, 57 pages in and three dehydrated highlighters later,I conceded. Yep, the myths are true. This entire book series is plastered with religious influence, racism, and fallacies. Not to mention grammatical errors-hope they at least spent a little more time in editing on the textbook series.  Propaganda can only be productive if presented in a perfect grammatical context. 

    So, I asked myself, what can I do now? How do I make a difference? I must stop the maddness! So my intent is to reach out to every lawmaker, every newspaper, every media outlet, every free thinking Louisiana resident–hell every American, that I can. I will not remain silent when my children are being robbed of a quality education on my dime. We allegedly live in a democratic society for the people and by the people. So, this here officially begins my rally for my children and the potential millions of children in the US who will be affected by this.

    1. Excellent comment. Ww should also note that in passing the voucher bill Jindal and his GOP lege thumbed their noses at the state constitution, at the religious freedom of all LA taxpayers, and at the very idea of public education.

  2. People in general are not interested in vouchers for several reasons:

    1) Many millions of Americans are happy with their public school system. Like me. Here is mine. Eat your heart out Gail Lowe:'AboutTheSchool

    2) Do voucher proponents really want to get low-performing minority kids into better private schools? Maybe vouchers are just the long-sought-after remedy to get them out of public schools so these schools will be all white again. Did you ever think of that? That has always been their real goal.

    3) Is the goal of a voucher system to better educate minority students or to sequester them in a special private or religious school hidden away from normal folks where they can be made “civilized.”

    I know it sounds a little crazy, but you guys know as well as I do how the extreme right wing in this country thinks. Did I say “thinks”? Excuse me, I have to check for fever.

    Part II on the Tennessee Monkey Law is up if anyone is interested:

  3. This is unconstitutional isn’t it?
    You can’t use fedral funds to teach craetionism (US Suprme Court 1987, Federal Court Kitzmiller vs Dover 2005

    1. I guess you can if you are a republican governor. The republicans are pandering to their religious right and business sponsors in their efforts to rid their states of the huge costs of educating our children through public education. They don’t care if the quality of education is diminished as long as they can show that they are cutting budgets, reducing deficits and acting as though they are addressing “problems”. Their creative accounting practices (schemes) allow them to continue on the path toward the republican script. It has nothing to do with what is good for their states or the students only the republican party and their future political aspirations. A sad commentary on the state of our American society. Please vote, end the moronic behavior of todays politions.