Saturday, February 20, 2016

Voucher Lottery Losers Win on Getting a Better Education

Desperate to save the sub-standard voucher program that wastes millions of taxpayer dollars, John White's crack public relations specialists have put out a highly misleading press release claiming that the voucher students are really improving more than regular public school students on state tests. But White's friend, Will Sentell of The Advocate refused to give him the usual biased reporting on this privatization scheme.

You see, even with all this alleged improvement in test performance, the voucher schools perform just a smidgen above the performance of the Baton Rouge RSD charters and the Louisiana RSD charters that are the lowest performing schools in the state! So for children to transfer from mostly C or D public schools to go to a private school scoring at a D- level is not anything to brag about. But White's PR experts are under orders to always try to slant the reports to somehow portray almost total failure as dramatic progress!

Here is the truth: Research scientists from Berkeley, Duke and M.I.T. did a comparison of all students who asked to transfer to voucher schools in Louisiana in the past year. Since there were not enough seats available, a lottery was held and some students were denied access to the voucher schools completely at random. Then the researchers averaged the scores on state tests of the students who missed out on being selected for vouchers and who remained in public schools with the students who won the voucher lottery. What they found is that on average, the students who stayed in public schools, performed better on state tests than did the voucher students. There is no amount of spinning of this data that can show that the voucher schools were a better choice for those children.

But here is one other important fact that is often overlooked by the media in reporting the small amount of progress of voucher students over a few years. Voucher schools have the same special privilege afforded to most charter schools of culling out the worst performing students using their discipline policies. Each year right after the October student count which starts the flow of state money going to vouchers and charters, the real public schools are forced to absorb a wave of rejects from the choice schools. Now that's not because of parental choice, but because the real choices are made by voucher and charter administrators who reject any kids that may be harder to teach or that may pose discipline problems. The real public schools have no such choice. In fact state law now requires that even extremely disruptive students whose dangerous behavior requires them to be removed from school must still be provided with educational services even if teachers have to go to their homes to try to teach them. But even though serving as a dumping ground for voucher and charter rejects, the real public schools still manage to produce better results on state testing.

So while some of our tax dollars continue to go to sub-standard voucher schools, at least the kids who lose the voucher lottery get a better education!

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