REFORM OR BUST - JINDAL'S VOUCHERS

Jindal's Plan - VOUCHERS: • Expand the existing Scholarship Program statewide for low-income students at C, D and F schools.

A St. Tammany Parish School Board member asked a question last night after hearing presentations on the Common Core Standards and the new high stakes tests that will be rolled out in 2014 that will be aligned with those standards and will replace our current iLEAP/LEAP tests - and will be the new basis for the Teacher Evaluation System 50% student progress component.

Q: If private schools don't have to use the Common Core Standards or the tests, where does state accountability come in for those public school students who receive vouchers to attend them?

My Answer: SHORT - there is no accountability to the system attached to vouchers. Parents are now EMPOWERED and the accountability, by virtue of CHOICE, belongs to them. LONG - No accountability is needed by the system because vouchers do not serve the purpose of ensuring a high quality or even a better education for the recipients.

They are a feel-good, have it your way, CHOICE, "discount coupon" of sorts that will get you into the store where you will spend MORE money but feel like you got a good deal. Like the wife who reports to her husband that she bought $1,000 worth of clothing at a 10% discount and saved a lot of money!!!

Instead of spending the money to IMPROVE public schools, it will deplete the pool of money even more than Jindal's cuts, thus making it virtually impossible to succeed. That's the plan though, isn't it? Another way to prove Jindal's mantra that our public schools are failing, our teachers are failing, our parents are failing and our children are failing.

In the first couple rounds of vouchers that were passed by the legislature with relatively little notice by the public, these so-called "scholarships" were funded by EXTRA TAX DOLLARS appropriated by YOUR REPRESENTATIVES. To be clear, I'm not saying your taxes were "increased." That means the money had to come from SOMEWHERE else. Jindal is fond of saying that public education funding continues to increase. To be clear, the MFP (dollars per student) has not increased. The NUMBER OF STUDENTS has increased. Costs have increased for many reasons (another subject). But the funds sent to districts who administer public education has DECREASED by eliminating state funding for various mandates and local dollars have to make up the difference in those districts that can afford to do that.

This legislative session promises to be different where vouchers are concerned. First of all, it is expected that the total dollars allocated for vouchers will increase because that opportunity will be extended beyond students in the Recovery School District. The scenario is that any student attending a "failing" school will be offered the CHOICE of attending a private or parochial school. Still sounds good?

Lets look at the CHOICE part first. Private and parochial schools aren't required to accept every student who applies. In fact, they will presumably be able to pick and choose which students they enroll. In reality, the CHOICE given to parents is now transferred to the receiving end. Many parents will be left with only the CHOICE to apply to a private/parochial school. That sounds much like the CHOICE parents in the Recovery School District have now - you can apply to the school of your CHOICE (the application actually gives you the opportunity to choose about ten in rank order) and your child theoretically be placed in one of those schools of YOUR CHOICE. And by the way, that CHOICE rarely includes the opportunity to attend a school in the child's neighborhood.

How about the money? This go around, funding for charters will be taken out of the Department of Education budget (which probably will not, for the third year in a row, include the typical 2.75% increase that covers those increased costs I mentioned) and not a separate allocation. That aligns with the much touted "school based budgeting" initiative which fits right in to the scheme to de-fund public education. School based budgeting is also referred to as "the money follows the child." It is touted as giving more control to principals/schools who will receive the MFP funds and determine how to best spend them. They will be EMPOWERED! The burden and additional costs that theory places on school administrators is another subject. As for vouchers, MFP funds for each child that is displaced will obviously affect the budgets of the schools from which the child is displaced. The building will still be there, the costs to maintain the building and the programs will still be there. . . but suddenly and without adequate notice to make sensible adjustments in the number of teachers, materials, supplies. . . the funds will not be there. This is called CHAOS, and if you study the theory and modus operandi of charter-based reform, you will see that CHAOS is promoted as a strategy to bring about beneficial change. It is believe to bring about innovation and considered a form of creative upheaval that the "status quo" of traditional school systems don't allow for.

If your pants are too long, throw them away and buy a new pair rather than shortening them. It's a distorted and destructive application of a market-based, free enterprise system on steroids. Those who are on the receiving end will benefit but the vast majority will PAY and NEITHER will be contributing to a better society.

The distractions created by the lure (and myths) of CHOICE, SCHOOL BASED BUDGETING, INNOVATION, EMPOWERMENT, etc. serve to keep the focus away from IMPROVING LEARNING OUTCOMES for the children. In Jindal's "blueprint" for education reform there is NO mention of a specific strategy or solution that affects the quality of learning in the classroom. The Department of Education offers NO specific strategy or solution that affects the quality of learning in the classroom. In fact, representatives for both clearly stated to both legislative education committees that their "plan" to improve public education was to "Continue to hold the threat of takeover by the Recovery School District over the heads of public schools."

The tool for that takeover is based on one narrow, flawed, invalid, and unreliable instrument called the high stakes standardized test. Now Jindal wants to use that same tool to evaluate teachers. You can't determine how high the water has risen by measuring the sky above it!!!!! You can determine how much weight a person has gained or lost by measuring the amount of food that person ate!!! These are the kinds of false measures of measurement used when the people in charge of measuring don't understand the product they are measuring - in this case learning and children.

There is so much more to the issue of VOUCHERS that defies common sense. I hope the public will engage themselves in the debate and ask questions like the one posed by our school board member.

VOUCHERS are no answer to improving public schools and are not in the best interests of all children. They advance the agenda of privatization.

AGAIN - IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY!!!!

3 comments:

  1. State reports show that 440,000 students enrolled in public schools rated “C” or lower, and that 86% of Louisiana families are voucher eligible under the salary criteria. If all chose to send kids to private schools the transfer of funds from public schools to private would amount to $1.892 billion.

    Louisiana already boasts the largest percentage of total student population in private schools at 18% according to the U.S. DOE Digest of Education Statistics. Louisiana enrolled 137,460 students in private schools in the most recent Digest. In Louisiana, most private schools are operated by the Catholic Church. Almost half of students, nationally, are registered in schools charging tuition of at least $6,000 per year with nearly 8% paying $10,000 or more.

    In most Louisiana public school districts fewer than 11% of students attend private schools. That is the average nationally as well. However, in Orleans, Jefferson and East Baton Rouge Parishes the private enrollment is around 30%. Few Louisiana public school districts contain private school options or existent facilities in which to start new private schools.

    That fact underscores the platform Jindal pronounced is more rhetoric than real promise to parents. Leslie Jacobs, no friend to local public school districts, has reported that for the last to annual grading periods the voucher-supported kids in New Orleans failed to do as well as the RSD direct run schools. Wow! They are the lowest performing in the state.
    Your position is sound. Shame more folks are deprived of the truth by lack of media coverage.

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  2. Thanks for responding Anonymous.

    Two further comments to add. It's my understanding that only those students enrolled in FAILING public schools will be eligible for vouchers. Hence, the extraordinary efforts to ensure that schools FAIL by the invalid standards set.

    Secondly - The "free market" will solve the problem of too few private schools. They will conceivably sprout up everywhere, primarily church sponsored.There is one in New Orleans East I know of now that is a charter in, I believe, a Baptist Church facility. Some of the now-charters may convert to private status as their extraordinary federal and private grant funding disappears. It appears to be a fail safe plan for investors.

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  3. Pop up everywhere is right, Lee. The beginning of education in LA began with the Catholic church. I have never had a problem with true parochial schools. What I do have a problem with are those schools, private or parochial, that materialized, almost overnight, in the BR area when the deseg case was settled. Vouchers will provide another escape route for new schools to appear at the expense of the public schools and the children.

    Thanks again for a great blog.

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