Louisiana Approves Taxpayer Funding For School Operating “On Faith”

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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William Y.
William Y5 years ago

@ Howard E. I fully agree.

Michael M.
Michael M5 years ago

So when a hurricane flattens the school and kills everyone there, can we blame their god?

Sue H.
Sue H5 years ago

OMG...how far we have fallen.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle5 years ago

This privatization kick in the U.S., pushed by repubs, be it prisons, schools, you-name-it, is so wrong. I am firmly against vouchers, against taking money away from public schools. And a RELIGIOUS school?! The poor children will not get a proper science education. We are ranked so low in the WORLD for our educational results anyway, and we will just fall further and further behind, ... but boy! will we have a future population of creationist thinkers!!!

marc page
Marc P5 years ago

Howard E.: Your plan reeks of Communism. While I completely disagree with all this religious crap, Public schools have become indoctrination centers instead of education centers. Most public schools stifle free thinking, crush creativity, teach blind obedience and to trust others to keep oneself safe. As a result 14 is the new 7 when it comes to kids being able to make responsible decisions on their own. I would home school my kids in a heartbeat rather than exposing them to the crap we allow as "Education" in this country.

Howard Evans
Howard Evans5 years ago

I know this is a radical idea that will piss some people off no end, but what we need is compulsory public eduction for all children 5-18. If you want to send them someplace else after school lets out, that's fine, but from 8 am to 2:30 pm they have to attend public school. No more substituting religious schools, private schools or home schooling.

The only way to get enough people interested in the success of public schools is to give every parent a direct vested interest. If you want to make sure your kid's a success, make sure their school is.

Laurie A.
Laurie T5 years ago

I don't know whether to laugh, shake my head in disbelief or hang my head, knowing how the educational system in America is already in such a sad state...and this cracker jack funding and teaching approach to (do I even dare describe as) education has been approved?

Carole Cherne
Carole Cherne5 years ago

This is typical of the right-wing thugs who are trying to take over American education. If they succeed, public education will be ripped apart and rebuilt by religious extremists who don't believe in science.

Lynn Squance
Lynn Squance5 years ago

And many Americans wonder why so many students lag behind students in other countries! This should certainly tell you part of the 'why'. Add to that depressed education spending (slashed budgets) and you start to get the answer.

I was once asked in a job interview about a skill weakness --- delegation --- and what I did to rectify it. I replied that I changed my attitude. I see delegating, and have for years now, as an investment. When I delegate and coach, I help an employee build their skillset and be more productive, which also allows me to be more productive.

If you want the future leaders to be better trained, more productive, critical thinkers, then an investment in up-to-date education is mandatory. Otherwise, you're just going back a hundred years or more.

Marie W.
Marie W5 years ago

Wrong answer. TAX THE CHURCHES!