Last year, when Governor Bobby Jindal persuaded the Louisiana legislature to pass the nation’s most sweeping voucher program, the school that was selected to receive the largest number of voucher students was the New Living Word Church school. Although it lacked the facilities, the teachers, or the curriculum to triple its enrollment, Superintendent John White approved the school to enroll 193 voucher students. While responded to criticism by reducing the number of vouchers to 93, still nearly half the school’s enrollment.
Classes were taught by DVD to students in the church gymnasium. The school’s principal and pastor promised to build a new building to accommodate the influx of new students.
This past week, Superintendent White banned the New Living Word School from further participation in the voucher program. It seems that they charged the state more than they charged non-voucher students, and the church pocketed the difference, which was hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars annually.
According to Superintendent White, the school now owes the state nearly $400,000 in overcharges.
Blogger Lamar White (no relation to the superintendent) in Louisiana had this to say about the fiasco:
“Although it’s easy and completely understandable to feel outraged by New Living Word’s exploitation of the voucher program, I find it impossible to have any sympathy for Superintendent White. Time after time, for over a year, he was warned repeatedly about this particular school; he was routinely criticized for the lack of oversight and accountability employed by the Department of Education, for his decision to not conduct even a bare modicum of due diligence on schools that sought hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in state government funding. Remember, the voucher program, ostensibly, was sold to Louisiana citizens as a way of ensuring children have access to better educational opportunities.
“As Zack Kopplin’s research reveals, at least a third of voucher schools are teaching from anti-scientific and anti-historical textbooks, and as we learned just last month, voucher students scored almost thirty points below average on the LEAP examination.
“In his statement to the media yesterday, Superintendent White also said, “In my view it is financially irresponsible according to the law. In my view it is incompetence and we will not tolerate it.”
“I’d submit that before Superintendent White lectures anyone else on financial irresponsibility or incompetence, he should first read up on negligence and dereliction of duty.
“I, for one, do not believe that New Living Word is the only school in the program that charges voucher students more than non-voucher students. Stay tuned.”