Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Misleading DOE Press Release on Voucher Audits

Central Louisiana blogger Lamar White Jr. in this post exposes the appalling results of an audit of Louisiana's voucher schools. The blog points out that the audit reports are so incomplete in their findings and reveal such lack of compliance with rules for tracking of funds that they should be considered worthless in examining the use of taxpayer funds for student vouchers.

An Associated Press story by Melinda Deslatte dated June 28 also pointed out that 107 of the 117 voucher schools did not provide enough information to the auditors for the state to determine whether or not the voucher money was spent according to the state guidelines.

This press release by the DOE  dated June 28 made the following statements:

"Of the 117 schools audited all were found to be compliant with Bulletin 133 except for the New Living Word school."

As a result, Superintendent White has banned the New Living Word School from further participation in the voucher program

The press release also stated:

"These findings are evidence that the oversight process is working and that there will be zero tolerance for fiscal mismanagement of taxpayer dollars," Superintendent of Education John White said in a statement.

My question is: How can the DOE claim that 116 schools were found to be compliant with Bulletin 133 when the great majority of schools did not provide the necessary documentation to demonstrate that they complied with Bulletin 133? And for John White to say that the oversight process is working and that there will be zero tolerance for fiscal mismanagement of taxpayer dollars is ludicrous! Just banning one school from the program when the majority of schools refused to provide the information needed to judge their compliance does not in any way equate to zero tolerance.

This press release basically describing the audit as representing a clean bill of health for the voucher schools is at a minimum misleading and could be more accurately described as a deliberate effort by the DOE to deceive the public.

See also the excellent commentary today on the Bob Mann blog here.

In an earlier post on this subject, Lamar White called for John White's resignation because of incompetence in the administration of the voucher program.

I believe it is certainly necessary that BESE, the governor and the legislature at least order an investigation of the Department's monitoring of the voucher program by the Inspector General and the Legislative Auditor to determine if there is neglect of duty or incompetence on the part of our State Superintendent.

Monday, July 8, 2013

More College Prep for All

The title of this Advocate story is misleading. I don't think Louisiana's 4 year college graduation rate mitigates anything. Another story in the Advocate last week pointed out that most high paying job openings in Louisiana in the next few years will be in the construction and technical fields. These jobs will require mostly 2 year Associate degrees rather than 4 year Bachelors degrees. Unfortunately our state directed and ideologically driven K-12 education system is not going to prepare many students for those jobs.

The following is my comment to the more recent Advocate story claiming that Louisiana students will be OK with their 4 year degrees.

This story misses another important fact. At least 2 out of 3 Louisiana students who enroll in our 4 year colleges never graduate. Many of these students drop out after committing to huge college loan debts. So they drop out of college with no degree and no viable job options with which to repay their college debts. According to State Superintendent White, only 19% of our high school graduates end up getting a four year college degree. This is the result after several years of efforts by our Department of Education to push more students into taking a college prep curriculum. Our high schools at the urging of our recent state superintendents have just about abandoned vocational/technical training of students just at the time when huge job opportunities are opening up in Louisiana in the construction and technical fields. We are now discovering that our push to prepare most of our students for 4 year colleges has resulted in a zero increase in college graduates and zero job skills for all those students who were misled into taking a curriculum that was inappropriate to their abilities and interests. Teachers and guidance counselors have been warning for years that our students need more relevant career options in high schools. The problem is Louisiana's last two state superintendents came to the job with basically no training in and no experience in education. That's why we now have a K-12 educational system that prepares the majority of students for absolutely nothing.

Superintendent White is now proposing that Louisiana boost participation in the career diploma. But that wont happen as long as the high school performance scores continue to reward high schools that focus primarily on college prep.

All this emphasis on "raising the bar" is just politically correct rubbish. Sure all parents want their children to be college graduates and sit in a plush office doing white collar work. But the fact is we need workers who can work with their hands as well as their brains (preferably at the same time).  With the adoption of the common core our DOE is still taking our students on a ride to nowhere.

The common core has never been field tested before it was mandated without discussion with parents and voters in Louisiana. Instead all of our students will be the guinea pigs in this huge gamble that common core is the next great innovation that will be the salvation of public education. The designers of common core have made it very clear that this is a college prep curriculum. It will continue Louisiana on the path of college prep for the few and prison prep for too many of our students who don't fit the one-size-fits all mold of common core.