In another development, new litigants have joined opponents and are challenging the vouchers on the grounds of separation of church and state. This story in the Monroe New Star points out that the ACLU and some religious groups are concerned that Louisiana's voucher program to religious schools is not only a violation of church and state but also has opened the door to many non-conventional religious groups receiving state aid to run their schools. If the Court agrees to consider this argument, we would have a much more powerful argument against religious school vouchers. The challenge to vouchers would no longer be limited to just the source of funding. My legislator who had voted for Act 2, woke up recently and expressed alarm that some Muslim groups who may want to get funding for Madrassa schools could possibly qualify for voucher funding. This is the Pandora's box you open up when you decide to use public money to fund vouchers to religious schools.
One of the bogus arguments for vouchers often expressed by BESE president Chas Roemer and others, is that parents should have the right to take their school tax money and use it for whatever schools they choose for their child. The basic flaw in this argument is that many of the parents who are qualifying for vouchers because of the public school their children attend, are not paying significant school taxes. Certainly not enough to fund their child's “scholarship”. The fact is that parents who are actually paying tuition to private schools are probably paying more than the average of public school taxes because they are wealthier and pay more property and other taxes. So with the structure of vouchers approved by the Jindal reforms, we have a situation where parents who pay tuition to send their children to private schools are also subsidizing funding for voucher parents.
But the reality is that most elite private schools allow only a limited number of voucher students if any, because they do not want to deal with too many low performing students. What we are seeing instead is the overnight growth of independent religious schools that will make their preachers rich by marketing to poor parents while providing a truly substandard education to the children.
One of the flaws of teacher merit pay is that it assumes that teachers are somehow holding back on their best efforts and will only teach their best when they can get bonuses for higher student performance. One teacher was quoted as joking: “Yea sure, I have these fantastic lesson plans that I keep locked up until I get offered merit pay!”