Ideology and profit trump good policy in White’s press release

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(Baton Rouge – August 24, 2010) In touting the product of a researcher nationally recognized for studies biased in favor of school vouchers, Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White continues down the path of rhetoric and partisan politics at the expense of taxpayers and school children, Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said today.

“It is obvious that Superintendent White and Governor Jindal have made a conscious effort to elevate ideology over good education policy,” Monaghan said. “The infusion of large sums of money spawned this agenda, and the pursuit of large sums of money continues to fuel it."

The LFT president was responding to a press release from White’s office claiming that vouchers in New York City “significantly increase college enrollment of African-American students.”

The study by Paul Peterson, a professor of government at Harvard University and fellow at the right-wing Hoover Institution, is extremely limited in scope and ignores factors other than vouchers in reaching its conclusion, Monaghan said.

The study found that vouchers in New York City had “no overall impacts on college enrollment.” However, Peterson and his fellow researcher said they found “large, statistically significant positive impacts on the college going of African-American students who participated in the study.”

“Superintendent White makes a giant leap from that finding and concludes that Louisiana will see ‘rising student achievement and ultimately more college graduates’ because of vouchers in our state,” Monaghan said. “His logic has more holes than a screen door.”

“We could suggest numerous other reasons, parental involvement and interest in particular, as motivations for the students mentioned in the study to attend college,” Monaghan said.

Comparing New York City’s privately funded voucher program to Louisiana’s raid on public education funds is a serious error, according to Monaghan.

The only recent study done on vouchers in our state was conducted in New Orleans, and concluded that students in voucher schools actually performed lower on standardized tests than their public school counterparts.

Comparing scores of third, fourth and fifth graders, the study by Educate Now found that only 38% of New Orleans’ voucher school students performed on grade level, compared to 49% in the city’s Recovery District schools and 75% of students statewide.

“That study was concluded before Gov. Jindal and Supt. White opened the state treasury to a disturbing number of voucher schools that lack adequate teachers, facilities and curricula,” Monaghan said. “Google Loch Ness monster and curriculum. We doubt that one will discover New York City among the assortment of embarrassing stories about the Louisiana voucher experiment. Louisiana’s vouchers are at center stage for dubious science, DVDs that substitute for literature, and math texts that eliminate the controversy of set theory."

Superintendent White’s grasp at the thin straw in Peterson’s New York study is just one more attempt to manipulate a disturbing narrative and address the steady stream of bad news about Louisiana’s flawed voucher scheme.

“New York isn’t Louisiana, the privately-funded voucher program in that city does not compare to Louisiana’s, and even the study cited by Supt. White is suspect,” Monaghan said.

The researcher, Paul Peterson, reportedly is recognized as the “go-to guy to offer up more pro-voucher research,” and was roundly criticized in 2000 for presenting “a manipulated and biased account of research data to show academic advantage, when there was none, for minority students attending voucher schools.”

“Superintendent White needs to focus on improving education for all our children, Monaghan said. “Instead, he is promoting an ideology.

"The superintendent has every right to advocate fiercely for his personal beliefs and world view, and there is no shortage of partisan think tanks that have fueled voucher schemes for the last 40 years,” Monaghan concluded. “However, we do not think Louisiana believes that the Louisiana Department of Education is the place for ideologically driven advocacy."