Louisiana Sends Kids to Private Religious Schools, Test Scores Don’t Go Up

The school year in Louisiana has begun under a changed landscape. Last year saw the expansion of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s sweeping school voucher program, officially called the Louisiana Scholarship Program, statewide. The program gives parents the choice to attend participating private schools for free if their local public school is low performing.

The program was funded with taxpayer money from the Minimum Foundation Fund (MFP). This is the state’s per pupil allocation fund for its public schools. The logic was since that student was leaving a public school, the funds allocated for that student could be used at their new private school. This resulted in almost $30 million dollars in funds diverted from public schools in the last school year into private entities.

In other words, the best way to improve failing schools is to put fewer resources into them.

In May of this year, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that the manner of funding violated the state’s constitution and the state must repay the $30 million dollars to the public schools.

Now faced with trying to find funds for the estimated $45 million dollar cost for the voucher program, Louisiana must also deal with the reality that voucher students are performing worse on standardized tests than their public school counterparts. In results released also in May, 60 percent of voucher students failed to score at or above grade level in the LEAP testing given to third through eighth graders.  The 40 percent proficiency level of voucher students was significantly lower than the state average of 69 percent.

The testing at the private voucher schools are for accountability purposes since they receive taxpayer funds. Seven of the schools performed so badly for the past three years (less than 25% of the voucher students scored at proficient levels in any year), they are no longer allowed to accept new voucher students (current students can remain).

These seven schools are also the most dependent on public funds of all the voucher schools.

The state superintendent told The Times-Picayune that the low 2013 scores for voucher students were due to a large influx of students from poor performing schools, indicating that 61 percent of the students were in their first year at the school.

Of course, this does not explain why voucher students in the previous year were only at 33 percent proficiency.

Perhaps the poor performance of the voucher students has something to do with the curriculum in the schools. In 2008, the same year that the voucher program was approved for New Orleans, the legislature passed the Louisiana Science Education Act. The ironically titled act encourages the teaching of creationism as an actual competing theory to evolution.

Of the approximately 130 voucher schools, 20 purposely use textbooks and guides in their “science” programs that promote Biblical theories. While they will indicate that “evolutionists” believe something different, God’s word is the one they should always trust. So if God says that dinosaurs and people lived on an earth that is only 6,000 years old, that is the correct test answer.

Unfortunately, standardized tests don’t agree.

In December of 2012, the Orleans Parish School Board prohibited the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in public schools. Orleans Parish had 84 percent proficiency on the LEAP tests. Of the seven voucher schools that had less than 25% proficiency, three of them have a biblical based curriculum for their science teachings.

The majority of the voucher schools are religious.

The court ruling did not say the entire voucher program was unconstitutional, nor did it say that public funds could not be used. It simply stated that the funds could not come from the pool of money specifically designated for public schools.

The current budget allows for approximately $40 million for the 2013-14 voucher program school year out of the general fund. A related mini-voucher program called Course Choice, which allows public school students to take courses not offered in their schools online, has found its more than $2 million in funding by eliminating testing for second graders, trimming employee travel and overhead, and additional funds from an oil and gas settlement fund.

Early indications are that they are continuing to throw good money into a bad idea.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G5 years ago


Great White Sha EarthBein

Dennis D.,

Okay, so we do agree, I just was not sure; after I sent you The Green Star and reread your post, I was like wait a minute.

Like so many things in The USA, the answers are already being done in Western European Socialist Democratic countries and done in the pre-1980s. Not we have to redesign it all over again

Dennis D.
Past Member 5 years ago

Great White Sha E. Thanks fir the star..

But the school voucher was something that only the far right wanted to try. Even in the 1980's it was being promoted as a way for inner city school children to get a better education. Former President Reagan(d) was the really the first President to advance the idea.The constitutionality of the idea was questioned by both parties.

Well the unconstitutionality of this was with out question. As the court in Louisiana own State Constitution proved the point rather well.

What I was trying to demonstrate in my post. Was that now that it ([t]he school voucher) has been tried. And demonstrably failed. It is time now to start to look at and for a real world answer to this very real problem.

Great White Sha EarthBein

Dennis D.,

I could not disagree more, if I understand what you posted, all this is doing is making students customers forced to deal with Private and Religious Monopolies and education a product. Monopolies and Government Working With Religions are Un-Constitutional, let alone just illegal; since creation of The USA Constitution (just read the creators of this country and USA Constitution or just listen to or listen to and call in and bring this up www.ThomHartmann.com, with your pocket USA Constitution in hand) through The 1980s a huge percentage of USA, let alone politicians were against these.

Angela Ray
Angela Ray5 years ago

Well, duh!!

Dennis D.
Past Member 5 years ago

Eric L. There in lies he problem. The children are demonstrably not getting the best education. All that is happening is that the private schools are literally soaking the State tax payers money. Not even being able to deliver a better quality of education.

It is not a public monopoly to educate our children. It is an effort to look for real world answers to a real world problem.

Private school vouchers are not answering either the problem or the question as to how, in this case Louisiana, can accomplish that goal.

Eric Lees
Eric Lees5 years ago

Most people are against private sector monopolies and would agree that the customer suffers. Yet some of these same people support public sector monopolies. Why?

It should be about getting the best education for the kids regardless of who is providing the education (as long as it is education and not indoctrination).

Cindy Pineda
Cindy P5 years ago

religion has nothing to do with educational test scores.

Donna Ferguson
Donna F5 years ago

I'm glad this is being publicized, finally