Louisiana’s bold bid to privatize schools | Reuters
The state of Louisiana has moved to a voucher scheme in an attempt to privatize education.
There are a number of issues surrounding vouchers; most frequently, we hear about the removal of cash from already-underfunded public schools. In Louisiana, this will apply, as anywhere else. But in Louisiana’s case, there are other issues, as well.
Starting this fall, thousands of poor and middle-class kids will get vouchers covering the full cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools across Louisiana, including small, Bible-based church schools.The following year, students of any income will be eligible for mini-vouchers that they can use to pay a range of private-sector vendors for classes and apprenticeships not offered in traditional public schools. The money can go to industry trade groups, businesses, online schools and tutors, among others.
Louisiana will not only allow public funding to go to, say, fully-accredited Catholic schools. While this is problematic from a church-state separation perspective, at least students generally receive a decent education on most subjects.
Top schools are only willing to accept a handful of voucher students. After all, top schools usually have waiting lists, and no problem attracting tuition-paying students. How about New Living Word school in Ruston, Louisiana? They’re willing to take on 314 voucher students next year.
Well, they’ve got a great basketball team! Oh, but no library, and not much by way of teachers:
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.
Other religious “schools” are likewise clamoring for voucher students, because they can’t otherwise attract students.
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.
While Louisiana’s voucher students will have to take standardized tests that all public school students take, the state has no plan in place to handle those private schools where students are failing to meet standards. It also has–as you may have guessed–no worthwhile standards for accreditation. Teachers? Who needs ‘em? Science? Math? What use are those?
Lawsuits from teachers’ unions and the like are expected. With any luck, parents will join in lawsuits over the direction of funds to the Christian version of madrassas, where students are indoctrinated with religious texts and little else.
I am hopeful this travesty can be corrected before Louisiana’s students turn out less-bright than the Louisianans who elected exorcist-in-chief Bobby Jindal as governor.