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98% of Eligible Students Say No to Vouchers « Diane Ravitch’s blog

July 14, 2012

98% of Eligible Students Say No to Vouchers « Diane Ravitch’s blog

It is really stunning what is going on in Louisiana with regard to the wholesale destruction of the public education system.  In case you haven’t been informed about what they are doing down there, let me briefly recap.  The State, in its infinite wisdom as chosen to flood the populace with vouchers so that students can have “choice” of where to go to school.  Embedded in these choices are for profit charter schools as well as religious schools which are lining up to get on the money-train…nice, right?  Also…as Diane Ravitch explains below, the private schools aren’t being held to academic standards like the public schools.

Bobby Jindal, the Republican Governor of Louisiana is literally dismantling public education.  I have written before about being a teacher in that state, and how if you were mobile, meaning…you had the capacity to move…you would.  I have predicted that many great teachers will leave Louisiana (I would) and move to somewhere that they could go about the hard work of teaching without seeing their careers and lives of their students disrupted.

After reading this post by Diane I have another prediction.  There will be a devastating impact on the learning of an entire generation of students in Louisiana as this entire process moves forward, and it won’t be good for that state, or for our country as a whole.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a state offered vouchers to more than half its students?

The Louisiana Department of Education just learned the answer to that question. It made the offer to 450,000 students. Not quite 9,000 studentsapplied to enroll in the voucher program that begins in September. That’s 2% of the eligibles.

That means that 98% of the 450,000 students who were eligible declined to apply.

Not exactly a stampede for the exits. No big rush to enroll in the little church schools that are supposedly better than the public schools that John White supervises.

The State Department of Education tried to spin it differently. At first, they said that 10,000 applied, which far exceeded their expectations. But it turned out that 1,000 of the applicants already had vouchers in New Orleans. As usual, they were playing the media for headlines.

To date, the nonpublic schools of the state have offered to enroll only 5,000 students, so some decisions will have to be made about how to handle the mismatch.

Meanwhile Commissioner White announced some loose regulations about enrollment and financial reporting that will apply to the voucher schools, but nothing about academic expectations. According to the story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the statewide voucher program is supposed to be modeled along the lines of a New Orleans pilot program that has been running since 2008, with varied results:

“As originally envisioned in legislation championed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, the statewide expansion of vouchers this year would have mirrored the pilot program that’s been up  and running in New Orleans since 2008. In the pilot, students on vouchers take the state’s LEAP exams, but, unlike charter schools, they don’t face any particular consequences for poor results. Test scores at the roughly two dozen private schools already in the program have varied widely.”

It is not clear whether the private and religious schools that accept public money will be required to meet academic standards set by the state, whether the voucher students will take the state tests, and whether there will be “any particular consequences for poor results.”

One of the prime movers of the “reform” movement in Louisiana, Leslie Jacobs, complained a year ago that the voucher schools in New Orleans were getting poor results. She called for performance standards for the voucher schools. But it doesn’t seem likely to happen on a state level. The governor and the commissioner don’t want to interfere in the private schools, other than to send money. They want to hold the public schools accountable to standards, but allow students leave for nonpublic schools with no standards or accountability.

It is also unclear whether the state will expect the voucher schools to teach modern science or will be content to see thousands of public school students taught Creationism.

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