There is no evidence whatsoever that private school providers deliver a better education to public school students who attend voucher schools or who take the new online courses that are the current fad in education. In fact the academic results in Milwaukee, Cleveland and New Orleans for voucher schools have been very poor compared to traditional public schools. In addition, there are major scandals developing in several states over the abuse of public funding by online schools. For example: pupil teacher ratios of 250:1 and no accountability. Such virtual schools produce extremely poor results with many students dropping out and often returning to their traditional public schools. Teachers find that many of those students have fallen behind their peers. The online companies are responding by implementing massive advertising campaigns funded by taxpayer dollars as such schools must constantly churn their enrollment to replace students who drop out. This is where we are headed in Louisiana.
State Superintendent White has totally ignored the District court ruling that MFP cannot be diverted to vouchers and course choice providers. (See the story in The Baton Rouge Advocate) Also ignoring the scandals of the fly-by-night voucher schools of this year, he is greatly expanding the opportunities for parents to pull their children out of public schools using both state and local tax dollars. Jindal and White apparently are confident that the recent change in the state supreme court will give them free rein to dismantle public schools. Either that, or they will insist that the legislature provide alternate funding despite the projected one billion dollar deficit.
The BESE approved course choice program allows dozens of private providers for 2013. Most of these are based in other states and have not been tested for effectiveness. They carry no accountability standards, no mandatory attendance, and can award credit for courses completely at the discretion of the provider. Yet to add insult to injury, the home public school will be assigned such student state testing results for calculation of their SPS scores even though the student is only required to attend one class at the home school! White says, No problem! You can trust the state DOE to keep a tight control over such providers (even though they won't be evaluated for 3 years)
Meanwhile, school principals and teachers are expected to implement a whole new curriculum (the common core) at the same time that teachers are being demoralized by teacher firing quotas demanded by the new evaluation system. I expect that the fired and disenchanted teachers may be welcome in the voucher schools, at lower salaries and zero benefits, where no such draconian rules apply. By the way, did you notice that the common core will no longer have the highly prescriptive GLEs and lockstep curriculum requirements that have been the rule for so long in Louisiana public schools. Now the state superintendent has announced that he will "empower" teachers and schools to develop their own teaching strategies. In other words, just do whatever is necessary to get students to pass the new tests. Now he is also proclaiming that more special education students must get diplomas no matter what. Our high schools are rapidly transitioning to diploma mills where we will be pretending to prepare all students for college. The college prep for all experiment has already been tried in San Jose California with zero results.
I could go on and on describing the ridiculous experimentation with student's futures and teacher's careers that are being forced on our education system, but I believe it would be more productive for this blog to encourage educators to organize to fight for the survival of our public education system. The first and most important action I can suggest for professional educators is that we must all act immediately to gain support for our cause from our state legislators. Our local legislators are our only hope, and I believe we have not to this date made the necessary effort to inform and influence them. Here are my suggestions:
Starting next week there will be several forums scattered around the state designed to encourage educators to educate their legislators about the threats to sound education programs in our state. Legislators must be asked to back our public education system and to stop these privatization efforts by Jindal and his allies. I am listing the forums planned so far but we need many more.
Extremely effective forums would be those planned by principals and teachers at their own schools with the Representative and Senator representing that school. By all means, clear any meetings with your local superintendent. I would hope that the local school board members would be active participants in such meetings. The legislature convenes April 8. The time to meet with legislators is now. My next blog will list critical questions and issues that we must address with our legislators.
Please encourage all educators to attend one of the forums in your general area from the list below. One of the forums is organized by Dist 3 BESE member and superintendent elect for St Martin Parish, Lottie Beebie. The others are organized by the LAE. We need many more forums. If you and your colleagues plan a parish forum, please notify me and I will also publicise it on this blog. Thanks in advance for supporting public education.
Lottie Beebie Forum:
Feb. 20: 6:00 P. M. ,The Glass Room, 328 N. Main St., Breaux Bridge, LA
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org