Louisiana has been hard at work expanding its school voucher program recently, and the results are alarming.
This is the same state that four years ago passed a law that encourages teachers to critique science such as evolution and global warming, although there is currently a push to put evolution back in the curriculum.
Now the Louisiana Department of Education has just approved the New Living Word School in Ruston (near Shreveport) to accept 315 students as part of the state’s scholarship program. This plan allows students at “failing” public schools to attend alternate public or private schools provided their household income is no more than 250 percent of the poverty level.
Why is this alarming?
Primary Instruction From Watching DVDs?
The New Living Word School currently has 122 students, who attend classes in Sunday school classrooms. These classrooms have a video monitor, no computers and only long desks that serve about 11 students, according to the News Star.
New Living Word principal and church pastor, the Rev. Jerry Baldwin, told the newspaper that primary instruction for students at his school comes from watching DVDs, while a teacher is there mainly to manage the class, review homework, answer questions and give assignments.
And this school is now going to receive $2.7 million in taxpayer money? How can this be happening? A school that doesn’t have a large enough building, enough computers, enough desks or enough teachers gets this kind of funding?
Many educators, including myself, are against vouchers, since they take money away from public schools and put it into private schools, thereby making a bad situation worse in many cases. Privatizing education is not the way to go.
But the Louisiana case is an even more egregious error. Giving state dollars to a school run by a church is bad enough, but no public school resembling this school, which lacks the bare necessities, should be allowed to open.
No State Education Visits Needed To Approve School
However, state education officials wouldn’t know that because site visits aren’t a part of the approval process. Representatives of the education department spoke only by phone with school officials before issuing approval.
From Americans United:
Department of Education spokeswoman Rene Greer said parents have the opportunity to tour schools before enrolling their kids and that the Minimum Foundation Program “is designed to empower parents to make choices,” according to the News Star.
But fear not, naysayers. New Living Word principal and church pastor, the Rev. Jerry Baldwin, has a plan! Sort of. Baldwin said the school is moving forward “on faith” and that New Living Word will begin construction this summer on a 12,000-square-foot building that will hold 16 classrooms, according to the report.
If the construction isn’t complete in time, however, Baldwin has yet another suspect plan. He said the school can accommodate the new students in the church’s gym. When asked by the News Star about the lack of computers and desks, Baldwin claimed he knows someone who may be able to build desks quickly and, “You don’t need a computer on the first day of school.”
This story provides a great example of why so many of us are against vouchers: the state treats them as a solution to their education problems, but simply doesn’t hold the private schools that accept vouchers to the same standards as public schools. Surely the state of Louisiana would not allow a public school with such meager facilities to open? At least, I hope not.
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