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.