Key portions of the recently passed Jindal Education legislation are being challenged in court by the LFT, the LAE, and by the Louisiana School Boards Association. The student scholarship (voucher) program is being challenged on the basis that the state is not authorized by the Louisiana Constitution to fund student enrollment in private schools. These groups are attempting to prevent the implementation of this law before the beginning of the 2012 school year. At this point, the court challenges may be our best hope of preventing the new laws from doing serious damage to our educational system.
In addition to the questionable legality of paying for children to attend private and religious schools, in my opinion, the law is an open invitation to unscrupulous individuals to use our taxes for personal enrichment of a few at the expense of the education of children. This blog has pointed out recent newspaper revelations that several of the private religious schools that had been initially approved for relatively large numbers of public to private “scholarships” apparently did not have adequate facilities, staff or materials of instruction at the time of approval. Superintendent White subsequently assured legislators that private schools offering scholarship seats would be carefully screened to insure that they were capable of providing a quality education program before being given the final go ahead. This policy was obviously created only after the potential abuse was discovered by reporters. (See the new article linked here from the Monroe News Star that incicates that White attempted to mislead the Legislature and the media media about due diligence efforts of the Department!)
Since private schools are not required to meet accountability standards, such as high stakes tests for promotion and end of course tests as a requirement for graduation, there is no way for Louisiana to insure that our tax money is being used to actually provide quality instruction to students and that the diplomas awarded are valid. There is no way to prevent private school administrators from paying themselves exorbitant salaries while hiring cheap unqualified teachers and charging excessive rent for school facilities using our tax money!
Another portion of the new law inviting possible abuse is the new choice course option. This is an even greater opportunity for fraud and abuse. The provision of Act II that allows students enrolled in public schools to draw upon MFP funds from their school system to attend one or more courses provided by private virtual schools or by private individuals I believe, is another instance of unconstitutional use of public school funds which should also be challenged in court. Meanwhile the state will soon begin to accept proposals from various providers to offer such classes at state expense to students attending public schools rated “C” or below by BESE. The new law provides that such course offerings be approved by BESE by January 1, 2013 so that students may enroll for the 2013-14 school year.
I want to refer my readers again to the Recall Jindal website for the most current information on recall efforts on both Governor Jindal and certain legislators. I encourage all my readers to participate in the recall efforts. There can be no justification for the harm done to public education and to the teaching profession by the Governor and his allies in the recent legislative session. Recall is a legitimate tool of opposition!