Auditors are supposed to audit, but when the auditor for the voucher schools said they had some serious problems, the voucher advocates said he had overstepped his bounds. They don’t want no stinking audits. They just want to keep diverting public money to unaccountable schools.
Once again, the Louisiana legislative auditor’s December report on the state’s school voucher program has come in for criticism.
At a hearing last week, state Sens. Mike Walsworth, R-Monroe, and Robert Adley, R-Benton, said Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera had wandered into the area of proposing policy rather than simply determining if a government agency is complying with state law. Similar objections to the audit were raised last year.
Purpera was criticized because he suggested legislators consider revising the voucher program to include a requirement that nonpublic schools participating in it be academically acceptable.
It didn’t seem to matter to Purpera’s critics that he was within the bounds of the state law that created his office. It says audits may include “evaluations of the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness” of the programs being audited.
Though public schools may take part in the voucher program, their participation is just about non-existent. Public schools that want to accept voucher students have to be rated A or B by the state, but no similar rules apply to private schools.
John White, the TFA-trained State Superintendent said he would be the judge of quality.
The auditor’s report was not reassuring.
Last year, 30 percent of the 118 participating schools overcharged the state, asking for more money than the school’s regular tuition. Five schools had voucher students who were not economically eligible for the program. Auditors were unable to perform all of their audit procedures at a whopping 97 percent of schools because the schools had failed to keep a separate account of the use of voucher funds.
Here’s the real eye-opener: 18 private schools have student bodies where voucher students make up more than 50 percent of the enrollment — 13 in New Orleans, four in East Baton Rouge Parish and one in Jefferson Parish. Voucher enrollment at one New Orleans school is at 87 percent; another six of those 18 schools have more than 70 percent of their students on vouchers.
Vouchers are supposed to give parents an alternative by letting them choose schools that have proven themselves in a competitive market. But it’s not hard to conclude that many of the participating schools might have been crushed by market pressures if it weren’t for voucher money keeping them afloat.