Voucher Articles

March 2014

Dennis Persica: Audit finds problems with voucher schools
The Advocate – March 16, 2014
In this opinion piece, Dennis Persica says that instead of criticizing Louisiana’s Legislative Auditor for his report on the voucher program, legislators should look at more responsible and accountable ways to spend taxpayer money on vouchers. The Legislative Auditor, Daryl Purpera, recommended that legislators revise the voucher program to require that all participating schools be academically acceptable. Several legislators criticized the auditor for proposing policy, but Mr. Persica says state law allows audits to include “evaluations of the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness.” He also says change is necessary because Louisiana’s voucher program received a proficiency rating of only 41% based on the results of standardized testing. In addition, 30% of voucher schools overcharged the state, and 97% failed to keep a separate account of the use of voucher funds.

January 2014

Group likes accountability in La. voucher program
The Advocate
– January 13, 2014
The Fordham Institute reviewed voucher programs across the country and said Louisiana “is a national model when it comes to transparency and accountability.” Fordham acknowledged that Louisiana’s voucher performance has been disappointing so far but said that many states aren’t even measuring student performance in voucher schools.

New Orleans, New York City Top List of Friendliest Cities for School Choice
Education Week – January 8, 2014
The RSD, OPSB, and New York City school system top the list of the friendliest environments for school choice and competition, according to a recent report from the Brookings Institution. The report weighed a variety of factors, including the types of school choice available (vouchers, charter schools, tax-credit scholarships, etc.), the presence of virtual schools, school funding, how students are assigned to schools, and how students apply to schools of their choice.

December 2013

Half of Louisiana’s voucher students at D or F schools in program’s first year, data shows
Times-Picayune – November 28, 2013
At least 45% of students in Louisiana’s voucher program last year attended D or F schools, according to the state. The state released scores for 22 of the 118 schools participating, and last year these schools enrolled 2,888 of the nearly 5,000 voucher students. The other schools had too few students at testing grades for scores to be released. Of the 22 voucher schools receiving a score, more than half (13) were in the F range.

November 2013

Judge opens door for greater federal scrutiny of Jindal’s voucher program
The Advocate – November 25, 2013
It appears that Louisiana’s voucher program will continue, but a U.S. District Court Judge has ordered the state to work with the Justice Department to come up with a plan that allows the Justice Department to review voucher assignments before they go out to families to make sure they don’t result in increased segregation.

Former school voucher foe heads pro-voucher group
The Advocate – November 25, 2013
Former State Senator Ann Duplessis has been named President of the Louisiana Federation for Children, a group that supports private school vouchers. While once a vocal opponent of vouchers, Duplessis sponsored the 2008 Senate bill authorizing a pilot voucher program in Orleans Parish.

Religious Schools Struggle As Charters Expand in Urban Centers, Report Says
Education Week – November 20, 2013
A report from the National Commission of Faith Based Schools details the steady decline of religious schools in urban centers in part because of competitive pressures from charter schools. The report argues that expanding vouchers is the key to preserving faith-based educational institutions.

September 2013

Fight Over Louisiana Voucher Program Continues
Education Week – September 25, 2013
The U.S. Department of Justice wrote to House Republican leaders explaining its rationale for suing to block vouchers for students in parishes that are under federal desegregation orders. The Justice Department said it’s not against vouchers but wants to be sure they are implemented legally, and it needs court involvement to ensure Louisiana releases the necessary data on voucher students.

August 2013

U.S. government sues to block vouchers in some Louisiana school systems
Times-Picayune – August 24, 2013
The U.S. Justice Department is suing Louisiana to block vouchers for students in parishes that are under federal desegregation orders. The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) says it may be time to revisit the desegregation orders if it means forcing kids to attend failing schools in the name of racial integration.

June 2013

New Living Word tossed from voucher program
Monroe News Star – June 28, 2013
The New Living Word School in Ruston has been cut from the voucher program because the state’s auditor found the school charged the state more for tuition than it did parents of non-voucher students. The state is now working with other local schools to find seats for the 150 voucher students that have been displaced.

Louisiana Student Vouchers: Private Schools Get an “F” by the Program’s Own Standard
PolicyMic – June 13, 2013
Louisiana’s voucher students’ performance would make them the 3rd lowest performing district, behind RSD State and RSD Baton Rouge. Editor’s note: RSD New Orleans significantly outperformed the voucher students.

When will performance of Louisiana voucher students match parental satisfaction?: Jarvis DeBerry
Times-Picayune – June 11, 2013
A recent BAEO survey found that 93% of voucher parents are satisfied with their children’s school even though test scores show the majority of voucher students are performing below grade level. Jarvis DeBerry spoke with two of BAEO’s leaders who said parents have many reasons why they choose schools. Performance is a factor, but so is safety and school location. They did agree, though, that parent satisfaction is not enough when it comes to public dollars.

May 2013

Louisiana voucher students score almost 30 points below average on LEAP tests
Times-Picayune – May 22, 2013
Only 40% of voucher students scored at or above grade level on LEAP and iLeap tests this spring. The state average was 69%, and the average for RSD New Orleans schools was 57%. Five New Orleans schools participating in the voucher program had scores so low (less than 25% of voucher students performing at grade level) that they have been barred from accepting new voucher students in the fall. Editor’s note: There are only seven public schools in New Orleans with less than 40% of students performing at grade level and none with less than 30%.

Shakeout from school voucher ruling by Louisiana Supreme Court begins
Times-Picayune – May 15, 2013
The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that using the MFP to fund vouchers and Course Choice is unconstitutional, which means the state has to find another way to pay for the programs. Andrew Vanacore suggests that with 8,000 vouchers students already signed up for this coming school year, legislators will probably approve voucher funding for 2013-14. After that, the programs’ future is uncertain.

Nearly 8,000 students receive voucher seats for 2013-14
Times-Picayune – May 2, 2013
Nearly 8,000 students were matched with voucher seats in the first round of applications for the 2013-14 school year, an increase of over 3,000 students from 2012-13. The voucher program has grown in popularity, but there are still concerns about using MFP to pay for vouchers and whether or not the state supreme court will rule this funding mechanism unconstitutional.

February 2013

Applications open for state school vouchers even though questions remain about program
Times-Picayune – February 13, 2013
Applications are now available for Louisiana’s voucher program, but two big questions remain for families deciding whether to enroll their children: Will the state Supreme Court overturn a district ruling that voucher funding is unconstitutional, and which schools will be eligible to take more students next year? The Supreme Court will hear arguments in March. Individual school eligibility won’t be determined until May. For more on the voucher application, view the Department of Education press release.

November 2012

Educational beef jerky: The John White-Bobby Jindal voucher program
Something Like the Truth – November 25, 2012
Robert Mann believes that quality public school teachers are important, but he also believes that curriculum and textbooks are equally important, especially when it comes to voucher schools. Mann lists twenty voucher schools that include creationism and “other wacky, quasi-religious subjects” in their curriculums.

September 2012

Louisiana Voucher Schools Will Be Audited to Ensure Compliance
Town Talk – September 14, 2012
Superintendent John White says private schools participating in the statewide voucher program will undergo annual audits to examine how public money is being used. The audits will focus on a several areas, including whether schools are using adequate accounting controls, spending the money on educational purposes, and charging the voucher program the correct amount based upon regular tuition and fees.

State’s Top Education Official Sketches Plans for Closer Scrutiny of Private Schools
Times-Picayune – September 11, 2012
According to Superintendent John White, Louisiana should revise the way it approves state-sanctioned private schools, a process under greater scrutiny now that private schools can participate in the state’s voucher program. White believes these schools should provide more information on curriculum, teacher evaluations, and other aspects of their operations. White will present a detailed version of his plan to BESE for approval next month.

August 2012

Vouchers – Darwin = ??
Education Gadfly – August 30, 2012
The Education Gadfly says we shouldn’t worry too much about voucher schools that may teach Intelligent Design. The Gadfly says Louisiana has the right idea that schools, be they charter or voucher, should be free to operate as they see fit (within the bounds of health-and-safety) so long as they are accountable for their students’ performance as verified by state assessments. Accountability is about outcomes, not inputs, practices, staffing, or even curriculum.

N.Y.C. Study Finds Vouchers Boost Blacks’ College-Going Rates
Education Week – August 23, 2012
A recent study from the Brookings Institution found that African American students in NYC who received vouchers to attend private schools were more likely to attend college than their peers who stayed in public school.

School Vouchers Make a Comeback Amid Concerns About Quality
Hechinger Report – August 21, 2012
Former Times-Picayune education reporter Sarah Carr looks at voucher school oversight and the debate over who should ultimately be responsible for determining what constitutes a quality education: the government or parents.

Policy Debate on Vouchers Late, but Needed: Stephanie Grace
Times-Picayune – August 19, 2012
Stephanie Grace says that although she is glad the current debate over voucher schools could lead to tougher standards for all private schools, she wishes this debate had taken place before the voucher legislation was passed, not after. 

Spurred by Voucher Program, State Officials May Tighten Rules on Who Can Open Private Schools
Times-Picayune – August 14, 2012
Superintendent John White wants to tighten the rules on who can operate a state-sanctioned private school. This would establish a new bar for private schools to clear before they could accept students through the voucher program.

Bringing Voucher Schools to the Light

WWNO – August 10, 2012
Louisiana’s private and parochial schools often fail to educate students, just like public schools. (Louisiana ranks 41st in the nation on ACT scores.) Andre Perry believes this means true voucher accountability is critical, not just for the success of the program but also for the vitality of our city.

Voucher Vitriol

The Economist – August 9, 2012
The Economist looks at the controversy surrounding Louisiana’s voucher program, from the debate over publicly funded religious education to the recent threat from a teachers’ union to sue any school that takes voucher money.

Jindal’s Education Department Refuses to Release Voucher Records

Associated Press – August 8, 2012
The Louisiana Department of Education has refused to provide records from its deliberations over which schools were chosen to participate in the state’s voucher program. Supt. White says outdated information from earlier deliberations could cause confusion for parents who are still deciding whether to send their children to voucher schools. White has agreed to release the records after September 1, when voucher enrollment is set, but James Gill says odds are there was no process for approving voucher schools.

Bobby Jindal’s Vouchers Will Provide Over $700,000 Per Year To School Led by ‘Prophet, Apostle.
Cenlamar.com – August 7, 2012
Pastor Leonard Lucas, self-proclaimed prophet and apostle, has received preliminary approval for 80 voucher students for his Light City Christian Academy in New Orleans. Lucas is the owner and registered agent of at least three dozen companies, the majority of which are non-profits listed as “Not in Good Standing” by the Louisiana Secretary of State. Read Gambit’s satire of this situation called The Gospel of Lucas.

Private School Voucher Program Leaves 4,000 Families Out in the Cold

Times-Picayune – August 5, 2012
Of the 9,750 student applications deemed eligible for the state’s voucher program, about 5,600 got matched to a school. This means over 4,000 families interested in vouchers will have to return to public schools.

July 2012

State Appeals Court Allows Louisiana Voucher Program to Begin

Times-Picayune – July 26, 2012
A state appeals court denied a bid by teacher unions and school boards to block the start of the state’s voucher program while they challenge the program’s constitutionality. The appeals court upheld a lower ruling that bars injunctions against state programs if they cause a deficit in a department budget. A hearing on the constitutionality of the program is set for October.

Union Threatens Lawsuit Over Voucher Program

WDSU – July 26, 2012
A law firm representing the Louisiana Association of Educators sent a letter to dozens of voucher schools warning of legal action if they participate in the state’s private school voucher program. The letter said if the courts ruled that the voucher program is unconstitutional, voucher schools could be sued for receiving illegal payments of public funds. Supt. John White and BESE President Penny Dastugue issued a joint statement calling the letter a scare tactic and shameful.

Plan for Holding Private Schools Accountable in Voucher Program Wins Board Approval

Times-Picayune – July 24, 2012
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved State Superintendent John White’s recommended set of academic standards for private schools participating in the state’s voucher program. The Bureau of Governmental Research criticized White’s plan as not being tough enough, but the Council for a Better Louisiana says it is a much-needed step in the right direction.

View the list of voucher schools by parish, including tuition information and the number of approved slots.

Read more about the new voucher accountability plan:

Private School Choice AND Quality Control – Education Gadfly
Private Schools in State’s Voucher Program Will Be Held to Account in New Plan

Voucher Demand Soars
The Advocate – July 13, 2012
The Louisiana Department of Education announced that they have received more than 10,300 applications for Louisiana’s voucher program.

New Voucher Criteria Released

Louisiana Department of Education – July 11, 2012
The Department of Education has released a set of criteria that private schools will have to meet in order to participate in the voucher program. It includes the areas of enrollment, finances and student attrition. Criteria for academic accountability will be released in a later report.

Email Exchange Reveals Voucher Scheme

News Star – July 2, 2012
Monore’s News Star reviewed emails between Supt. John White and Governor Jindal’s spokesman Kyle Plotkin and policy advisor Stafford Palimieri in which they discuss White’s pending Senate confirmation hearing and the need to “muddy up the narrative” on approving voucher schools and the issues surrounding New Living Word School in Monroe. Some believe the emails show that the idea of a due diligence process for voucher schools only occurred to White after the problems with so many voucher schools had been revealed.

As Private School Vouchers Expand in New Orleans, Eyes Turn Toward State for Accountability Plan
Times-Picayune – July 1, 2012
Growing concerns about the statewide expansion of the voucher program, and the performance and capacity of some schools applying for the program, mean all eyes are on Superintendent John White. White is in charge of developing accountability standards for the private and parochial schools that will take voucher students.

June 2012

Landrieu: BESE Needs to Meet on Public School Voucher Rules
The Advocate – June 30, 2012
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu says any state oversight regulations for voucher schools should undergo a public review, and BESE should hold a special meeting in July to encourage public feedback and support. Landrieu also believes that private and parochial schools that take voucher students should receive letter grades from the state, and she favors “serious consequences” for non-public schools that under serve voucher students.

Demand for Vouchers Exceeds Availability
WVLA – June 30, 2012
Approximately 7,800 applications have been submitted for the new statewide voucher program, but only 5,100 spots are available at participating schools. Parents waiting on a decision should know if their child will receive a voucher by the end of July.

Accountability Rules Are an Afterthought in Gov. Jindal’s Louisiana: Jarvis DeBerry
Times-Picayune – June 26, 2012
Jarvis DeBerry compares the lack of government oversight of contractors post-Katrina to the lack accountability standards for the state’s new voucher program. DeBerry worries that the voucher program will prove to be just as wasteful as all the misspent FEMA money, especially if some children land at schools that are not prepared to teach them.

Editorial: Mounting Problems Erode Public Confidence in Voucher Program
American Press – June 20, 2012
This editorial from American Press argues that the state’s voucher program not only needs transparency to determine how well private schools are educating students, but also assurances from the Department of Education of the schools’ overall suitability. When taxpayer money is going to fund vouchers, it’s not just about family approval; it’s about whether taxpayer money is being spent wisely.