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Louisiana’s Voucher Program Featured on New Orleans Public Radio for the Failure It Is

May 8, 2019

Louisiana’s school voucher program has received yet another hefty dose of realistic attention for the utter failure that it is.

There have been local articles calling out the failure of the program in the past (I reference a number of such articles in this July 2016 post), but this May 07, 2019, extensive piece by WWNO New Orleans Public Radio, entitled, “The Cost of Choice: How Louisiana’s Voucher Program Steered Families into D and F Private Schools,” lays bare Louisiana’s school voucher program to such a degree that even “State Education Superintendent John White declined repeated requests for an interview.”

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John White

Multiple local news outlets were involved in the investigation:

‘The Cost of Choice’ is the result of a reporting collaboration between NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, WVUE Fox 8 News, WWNO and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

Some summary highlights from the article, including Betsy DeVos’ involvement:

Politicians promised the Louisiana Scholarship Program would offer low-income students a way out of bad public schools. Instead, the program steered families into low-performing private schools with little oversight.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal beamed with pride in April 2012, as he signed into law one of the most sweeping school choice expansions in the nation.

The law was lauded by the American Federation for Children, then chaired by future Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and other school choice advocates. Like Jindal, they said it would free countless lower-income children from the worst public schools by allowing them to use state tax dollars in the form of vouchers to pay tuition at private schools, where they would ostensibly receive a better education. …

Seven years later, however, the $40-million-a-year Louisiana Scholarship Program has failed to live up to its billing. The nearly 6,900 students who’ve left public schools have instead been placed into a system with numerous failing private schools that receive little oversight, a months-long examination by a coalition of local and national media organizations has found. …

Two-thirds of all students in the voucher system attended schools where they performed at a “D” or “F” level last school year….

“Bobby Jindal did not set up the Louisiana Scholarship Program for success. He set it up for low-performing schools to get subsidized and to stay open,” said Andre Perry, a fellow at The Brookings Institution….

Not a single school in the voucher program received an A or B. Three received a C. Of the remaining schools, 19 got a D and 15 got an F, based on the Louisiana Department of Education rating system.

Here is a noteworthy truth: Private schools taking public money in the form of school vouchers are slight on consequences for not living up to the “road to a better education” hype:

There are few consequences for schools whose voucher students consistently perform poorly on standardized tests. Private schools with voucher students performing at an average “F” grade are not allowed to take in new voucher students the following school year, but they can keep all students already enrolled there.

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Jan 2017 La. voucher mailout paid for by DC-based Alliance for School Choice

And now, the ideological crux: Choice for choice’s sake is just fine. Never mind that the leverage to promoting voucher choice involves damning the traditional public schools as failing:

“It’s all about choice,” said Ann Duplessis, a former state senator from New Orleans and the architect of the voucher system. “So this idea is to create an opportunity for parents to take the money that’s already being spent and to allow that parent or that family to then go and shop.” …

Duplessis maintained that parents are well-informed about the performance of the schools to which they are deciding to send their children. …

Reporters interviewed parents from five different schools and all were unaware of the grade that their child’s school had received.

Note that Ann Duplessis is on the board of directors of the American Federation for Children (AFC) Growth Fund, where DeVos used to be chair.

As for the private schools acceping voucher students, well, their reasons appear to be much more, shall we say, fiscally focused:

The analysis also shows that some low-performing private schools exist solely because of the voucher program. In two schools — McMillian’s and St. Benedict the Moor in New Orleans — every single student came through the voucher program, state data show. Students at both schools scored at the equivalent of a “D” grade.

Allow me to conclude this post with the following incredible irony, compliments of WWNO:

Some supporters of vouchers said placing the emphasis only on student test scores provides a jaded view of the program’s worthiness.

*Don’t measure our private schools via the same stick we used to pummel public schools in order to leverage Louisiana’s school vouchers in the first place.*

Be sure to read the entire WWNO article. Then, read this excuse by DeVos, as captured by the May 06, 2019, Chalkbeat: “The Louisiana program was not very well conceived.”

What is not “well conceived” is DeVos’ ability to feign disconnection from Louisiana’s school voucher program.

In 2012, DeVos’ American Federation for Children (AFC) championed Louisiana’s school voucher program, even bragging that AFC assisted in the “multi-year legislative battle” that brought about Louisiana’s 2012 statewide expansion of school vouchers.

And that DC-based organization that annually distributes mailers promoting Louisiana’s school voucher program, Alliance for School Choice?

That’s a DeVos-related outfit, as well.

This year, 2019, the promotional flyer came from “AFC Growth Fund.”

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AFC Growth Fund: Still a DeVos-led organization right up to her time as US ed sec.

Yet DeVos shields herself and blames the program, and John White refuses to comment.

Ouch.

Betsy DeVos 2

Betsy DeVos

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

 

5 Comments
  1. Great article.

    Read your tweet about the four F-rated charters being given another chance.

    Saw this:

    “Of the city’s 86 public schools, 11 received an F from the state in the 2018 annual ratings, which are based largely on standardized tests.”

    How many are D rated? Are D and F schools still 40% of total?

    Diane

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. Lance Hill permalink

    The state media never liked vouchers because it took money from charters and gave it to competitive private schools. So I don’t find the new coverage illuminating, plus it is old news to critics of privatization. They still won’t look at how charters have academically segregated our schools and contributed to inequality and “dumping schools.” Notice the media’s silence on the role of UNO in starting the whole charter debacle in New Orleans and hiding their responsibility by renaming it “New Beginnings.”

    • when I was writing about my own experience watching the “choice school” movement suddenly hit our inner-city district and start skimming off only the kids it wanted, and then pushing out any child who did not meet expectations — thus forcing that child back into truly “public” schools — I struggled to find a term for those institutions struggling to do their best with only the carefully rejected or separated-out students: the term you use here is very exact, if sadly abusive. Dumping Schools.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. DeVos Pal, Eddie Rispone: School Vouchers Give Public Schools “Influence” to Not “Go Out of Business.” | deutsch29

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