According to a story in today’s Alexandria (La.) “Daily Town Talk,” large parts of Louisiana have no private schools taking part in the voucher program. They prefer to wait and see or just keep their distance. Some say they have no seats available; in one case, a school principal said her board members were “philosophically opposed” to using government money to pay for private school tuition.
With so few seats available for voucher applicants in Louisiana, I am beginning to wonder whether the voucher proposal was a diversion.
Maybe the point all along was to create hundreds of new charter schools across the state, which could siphon away public school students and cut the funding for public schools.
The unfolding of the voucher story is pretty intriguing, because this one is the big demonstration of vouchers, the one that voucher advocates have been longing for many decades.
And since Romney is out on the campaign trail flogging vouchers, this story has national significance.
Here are the problems:
1. Not that many seats available.
2. Some of the schools most eager to accept voucher students do not have a strong academic program, so the children might be leaving their struggling public school to enroll in a low-quality private or religious school.
3. The sorting of students into voucher and charter schools seems likely to intensify racial segregation, as students choose to go where they feel welcome.
4. The program may create demand by families who already pay for religious school to pay for their children too.
5. It’s hard to figure out how a program that allows 1% of eligible students (about 5,000 of 400,000 eligibles) to enter a private or religious school of unknown quality will end up transforming American education for the better or even helping sizable numbers of children.
Stay tuned for Gannett series that promises to “follow the money” in the Louisiana plan and to see how closely the Louisiana plan matches the language in ALEC model voucher legislation.
Governor Bobby Jindal may have discovered a way to revive racial segregation while calling it “reform.”