A growing army of educators nationwide have been throwing bones at the media for several years. In the end it is small town journalism that took the bite and is now stirring up interest in the debacle name Bobby Jindal and his efforts to trample democracy on his way up the political ladder.
We won't give up in what has become a battle to save public education and the communities that have traditionally been built around our schools. The MYTH of The New Orleans Miracle will be fully exposed. WWBJ do now?
TALK ABOUT THE SOUTH: VOUCHERS GONE WILD!
By Dayne Sherman
Monday, June 4, 2012 11:14 AM CDT
The ink was barely dry on Bobby Jindal’s new school voucher program, state tax money given to private and parochial schools to teach Louisiana students, and it’s already a national disgrace and a scandal. Due to the diligent investigative reporting of the Monroe News-Star, this past week has been a nightmare for the Jindal Machine.
The News-Star is publishing a tremendous series of reports on school voucher corruption in Louisiana. These stories are going viral. At the same time former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is saying the Jindal education plan should be the national model, the truth is finally coming to light.
The church-related New Living Word School in Ruston was approved by Superintendent John White’s Louisiana Department of Education to increase its enrollment from 122 to 315 children through vouchers. What’s the problem? Well, they don’t have facilities and their teaching method, according to the News-Star, is to play DVDs for students. Yes, just show an educational DVD. Who needs certified teachers anyway?
This particular “school” would have been the largest voucher recipient in Louisiana. The News-Star articles detail the woeful inadequacy of their program. Worse, the school jacked up their tuition from $200 per month to $8500 per year in order to claim all but $32 of the maximum voucher money allotted per child. What was the total tax money going to this boondoggle? Only 2.7 million dollars of taxpayer cash.
Most people cry foul when they hear about the scandal. This is true regardless of political party or ideology. It’s just basic good sense to stop such a train wreck. However, there are still a few true believers in Bobby Jindal’s education “reform” scheme, and they are defending the Ruston school and the corrupt voucher program with their heads buried in the Louisiana gumbo mud.
Their arguments are easy to summarize.
First, they say, “Let the parents choose. Parents know what’s best for their children” Choice seems to be their highest value.
Though I agree that parents usually know best, please don’t allow the state to mislabel a bottle of poison, force taxpayers foot the bill, and then call the poison “education.” That’s not an appropriate choice for anyone, and the Louisiana Department of Education has no business repackaging snake oil and calling it education reform.
Second, a constantly repeated argument for vouchers and charter schools is that competition is good no matter the enterprise. They say market forces will determine whether a school is good or not and whether it will last.
To counter this fallacy, I bring up the words of Wendell Berry, one of America’s greatest thinkers, the writer and farmer from rural Kentucky. He states, “Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.” Indeed, Mr. Berry. How true.
Besides, the voucher and charter school fiascos are getting special treatment. They are being promoted by the state and will be propped up by tax incentives, corporate graft, and the systematic undermining of accountability measures. They get the money, but they don’t have to meet the same standards as the public schools.
Louisiana is regressing when it comes to education at all levels, despite the public relations machine in Baton Rouge churning out positive press releases. We are going backward at a rate so fast that the avalanche will cover us before we know it.
It reminds me of a prophetic word written 30 years ago by the novelist Kurt Vonnegut. A character in his book “Deadeye Dick” says, “You want to know something? We are living in the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages--they haven’t ended yet.”
It is up to Louisiana citizens like us to fight the darkness while we still have time.
Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or his website at daynesherman.com.