Of the 125 schools approved to accept taxpayer funds under Louisiana’s new school voucher law, 115 (92%) are affiliated with a church or other religious organization.
From Americans United:
Louisiana has an incredibly bad record when it comes to taxpayer aid to religious schools.
Back in the 1920s, Gov. Huey Long pushed a bill through the legislature giving textbooks to Catholic schools at taxpayer expense. The state has been the site of repeated efforts to siphon tax dollars away from public schools into the coffers of religious schools ever since.
The Jindal administration released the list of schools which will participate in the voucher program starting this fall. Nine are private yet not directly connected with a religious purpose, and one is a public school. Almost all are religious and located in urban areas along the I-10 corridor. Here’s some additional data:
- 380,000 = Total estimated eligible students statewide
- 7,450 = Total number of slots
- 125 = Total number of participating schools
- 115 = Religious private schools
- 9 = Non-religious private schools
- 1 = public school
- ~12 = Participating schools in North & Central Louisiana
- 33 = Parishes with approved schools
- $8,500 = taxpayer money per voucher
“I can tell you that this is not a Louisiana agenda. This is a national agenda to do away with public education as we know it.” Rep. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs
Apart from potential lawsuits which would challenge the vouchers on religious grounds, there may be more legal battles on the horizon for Jindal’s vouchers. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers opposed the voucher program citing the unconstitutional routing of public Minimum Funding Program (MFP) dollars into private hands. The union, led by President Steve Monaghan, has promised a lawsuit against the state on these grounds.
Another interesting development comes from one of the most conservative parts of the state. The St. Tammany Parish School Board approved a resolution to possibly challenge the education reform package on several constitutional grounds, in coordination with the Louisiana School Board Association and other school boards across the state. One of the principal grounds is also the routing of public school MFP funding into private schools – something that deprives school boards of much-needed funds. The folks in St. Tammany say that suing the state is the only way they can fight to save their public school system.
This reminds me of a time when state law also did not protect black people. State lawmakers back then tried the same thing that Senator Crowe is trying now — to use discriminatory state laws as an excuse for violating federal laws.It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.
I never thought I would write the words in the title consecutively. But one Republican legislator is showing that he’s not your cookie-cutter conservative nor is he a pawn of the Jindal machine (like almost all Republicans and many Democrats in Baton Rouge today).
Ladies and Gentlemen…meet Joe Harrison:
Joe, as we will appropriately call him, has been a leading voice of common sense and reason against Jindal’s attack on public education. As the article on NOLA.com called to our attention this morning, Joe has offered The Harrison Plan for education reform – a stark contrast to the Jindal plan and the the only tangible alternative offered thus far (that we know of). Ok, Democrats, pay attention.
Joe’s plan has 6 parts across 7 bills:
- Team teaching for K-4 – While it may be impractical to require that the same teachers follow a group of students for 5 years straight, his heart is in the right place as far as fostering a system in which teachers develop close relationships with kids. And I like the idea of partnering teachers with differentbackgrounds or areas of expertise. It is good to see a proposal that puts the focus back in the (public school) classroom.
- Mandated parental involvement – While this won’t always work, I think the idea is a good one. I’m not sure you can make a parent care if he or she doesn’t already, but it is important to find ways to get public school parents more actively involved. Overall, I doubt a bill like this would ever pass.
- Integrated school-based healthcare – The cycle of poverty is a big cause of poor performance in schools across Louisiana. Many children need a combination of health and social services, as the problems they face in these areas are directly related to how prepared they are to learn at school. So, it only makes sense that these services are offered on campus.
- Integrated school-based social services – See above. It also makes sense to package these services because of the potential cost efficiencies for the taxpayers.
- Requirement that school districts spend at least 80% of MFP on classroom instruction – As Joe says, “It’s as simple as ABC and 1,2,3.” Far too much is spent at the district level on administrative costs. This bill would force local school boards to put the money where it can best help students.
- Mandatory inclusion of the “founding principles” in high school history courses – This is a nonstarter. For starters, the term “founding principles” can mean different things to different people. I’m not sure what the thought was here, but I do agree that we need to beef up civics education.
Regardless of the details (or as some of our legislators would say, “irregardless”), the focus of the Harrison Plan is on improving public schools in practical ways. This is what education reform should be about — not about giving taxpayer dollars away to the private sector. Kudos to Joe for his courage and leadership! We need more folks like him in Baton Rouge.
In our first post on the ramifications of Jindal’s education reform package, we discussed what is likely to happen once the radical reforms become law:
Immediately after the legislation passes, profit-seeking corporations and individuals will rush to create new charter schools and private academies to take advantage of the taxpayer funds that will stream like water through a breached levee into the private sector. Not only that, churches and “community organizations” will follow suit in poor neighborhoods, establishing “pop-up” schools and marketing school “choice” to the local population.
Now if Jindal and his legislative lackeys have their way (and they will — who would stop them?), charter schools will be free to discriminate against prospective students in a variety of ways.
SB217, offered by State Senator A.G. Crowe (R-Slidell) and championed by the friendly folks with the Louisiana Family Forum, would strip several categories of protection from the current Education Department provision governing charter school contracts, including sexual orientation, English language proficiency, and athletic and academic performance.
So, a Christian charter school could freely deny admission to gay students — you know, so “the gay” wouldn’t rub off on the straight kids. And a charter school could pop up offering admission only to the best athletes in the community. Finally, any charter school could accept only those students deemed “academically qualified.” Taxpayer money stripped from the public schools would then go to charter schools who could recruit the best students and would thus show higher achievement.