Voucher report: New lipstick on an old pig

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(Baton Rouge – November 3, 2014) A Louisiana Department of Education report boasting success for Louisiana’s controversial school voucher scheme amounts to little more than political propaganda on the eve of an election, Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said today.

“Spending $46 million on private and religious schools continues to be a choice driven by ideology and not by sound educational practice,” Monaghan said. “This report does little more than paint a new shade of lipstick on an old pig.”

Far from demonstrating the success of the voucher program, Monaghan said, today’s report calls into question the validity of the state’s experiment with privatized education.

Of the 125 private and religious schools that accept vouchers, only 28 are included in the Louisiana Scholarship Program Annual report. Of those, only 12 have a Scholarship Cohort Index (the state’s metric for measuring achievement) in the range considered acceptable by the Department of Education. Sixteen have scores low enough that, if repeated for another year, would preclude them from accepting more students.

Two of the schools on the list are slated to close next year. An additional eight voucher schools are prohibited from accepting more students.

“Imagine the outrage if fewer than one-fourth of the state’s 1,500 public schools released information about their achievement,” Monaghan said. “And, if fewer than 10 percent of our public schools could be considered academically acceptable, citizens would storm the capitol with pitchforks and torches.”

Monaghan said that leaders have done the children of the state a disservice by continuing to work to convince the public that private and religious schools are, somehow, automatically better than public schools.

“Public schools are required to furnish hard data on every student, and are assigned letter grades based on standardized tests,” Monaghan said. “In this report, though, private and religious schools are judged by a squishy, feel-good ‘parent satisfaction’ index.

“At a time when lawmakers are calling for an ‘apples to apples’ comparison of public schools, this report makes a mockery of the concept of accountability,” Monaghan said.

While student achievement in voucher schools is vaguely reported, real numbers show that the state has a definite bias toward private and religious schools.

This year, funding for vouchers increased from $36 million to $46 million, and the number of students in voucher schools expanded from 6,700 to 8,100. In every year since the program began, there has been an increase in the per-pupil allocation for vouchers – even in years when public education’s Minimum Foundation Program funding remained flat.