Friday, April 11, 2014

Last Chance for Accountability for Charters and Vouchers

At its next meeting on April 16, the House Education Committee will resume its consideration of bills that would curtail abuses of the voucher and charter school programs. It is very important that supporters of our public schools ask committee members to vote "yes" for several of these bills if we are to insure the continued viability of our public school systems. Make no mistake about it. Our public schools are threatened by the continued abuses of charters and vouchers.

There is no evidence whatsoever that the addition of charter schools and voucher schools have improved the opportunities for our students in Louisiana. The original reasons given by Governor Jindal for the expansion of charters and vouchers by Act 2 of 2012 is that parents needed a way to escape "failing" public schools. However it has become clear that initial screening and monitoring of new voucher schools by the LDOE has been inadequate, allowing fly-by night-voucher schools to receive tax dollars with little accountability. The testing data and legislative audits have shown that performance and accountability of these schools is sub standard. Also, new predatory, for-profit charters are being given financial advantages to attract students away from many successful public schools. There are no restrictions on how much of our tax dollars can be diverted from student education for slick ads and for the enrichment of developers.

HB 89 by Miller would restrict funding to charter schools that are not paying their fair share of  unfunded liability for retirement costs that are mandated by the legislature to all other public schools. (See the explanation of this bill on the post below. One of the rich charter developers from Florida has a 40 foot yacht with a name ("Fishin' 4 Schools") that flaunts his exploitation of our tax dollars.

HB 184 by Havard would keep charter school owners from profiting from buildings purchased with tax dollars. This is happening sometimes even after such schools fold.

HB 701,702, and 703 by Edwards would prevent the approval of vouchers and charters by BESE in school systems that are rated "C" or above. These are not "failing" school systems.  See the explanation below.

HB 836 by Harrison requires accountability for voucher schools. (see below)

All of the above bills should be passed if we really believe in accountability. Last Wednesday, the charter and voucher proponents killed certification requirements for teachers in charters and vouchers and killed a bill by Pearson seeking to close the kindergarten loophole for charters. If this trend continues, charter and voucher schools will dominate our educational system at the expense of our public schools.

Please help me correct a misconception about some of our public schools. The supporters of school privatization have succeeded in creating a false image of "failing public schools".  I hear it repeated over and over as justification for increased privatization. This is an image based on a flawed grading system for schools. The school grading system is based entirely on student performance, not on the quality of services provided by a school. A "D" or "F" school turns out to always be a school serving high poverty at risk students. When such schools are closed or their students are allowed to go to other schools, the data shows that on average such students do not improve their performance. One added point: Herb Bassett has analyzed the student performance data from the past school year and has found that on average, low performing sub groups actually do better in "D" or "C" schools than they do in "B" or "A" schools. Herb wants to look at more data to confirm or disprove this conclusion. But if it holds true then there is no justification for providing ways for students to "escape failing schools".

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