Political Animal


July 26, 2012 11:23 AM Louisiana’s No-Count Accountability Standards For Vouchers

By Ed Kilgore

It’s been a while since we checked in on the Gret Stet of Loosiana’s new voucher program for private schools, which has succeeded in making Gov. Bobby Jindal the Christian Right’s very favorite prospect to become Mitt Romney’s running-mate.

Under considerable pressure to provide some sort of accountability standards for private schools receiving vouchers (as vaguely required in the enabling legislation), Jindal’s state education chief John White and his staff scrambled to come up with a plan. They did so, and got a rubber-stamp approval from the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and probably the most that can be said for it is that it’s slightly better than nothing. Here’s a report from Reuters’ Stephanie Simon:

State money will continue to flow to scores of private and religious schools participating in Louisiana’s new voucher program even if their students fail basic reading and math tests, according to new guidelines released by the state on Monday.
The voucher program, the most sweeping in the nation, is the linchpin of Louisiana’s bold push to reshape public education. The state plans to shift tens of millions of dollars from public schools to pay not only private schools but also private businesses and private tutors to educate children across the state….
Under the new rules, schools will not be penalized for poor scores on state standardized tests if they have fewer than 40 voucher students enrolled in the upper elementary or secondary grades. Those schools can continue to receive state funds even if their voucher students fail to demonstrate basic competency in math, reading, science and social studies.
White estimated that 75 percent of the 120 private schools in the voucher program this year will fall into this protected category….
Lance Hill, executive director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research in New Orleans, said the new guidelines failed to hold private schools to the same academic standards as public schools.
“Almost all the voucher schools are religious schools,” Hill said, “and many use an evangelical curriculum that teaches that humans walked the earth 6,000 years ago with dinosaurs. Do I, as a taxpayer, want my taxes to support that as a proper education in science?”

Good question, Lance. But the smokescreen of these “accountability standards” obscures the fundamental philosophy of the Louisiana program, which is to make parental choice and unregulated markets for public dollars the only real criteria of success. As a post at Education Talk New Orleans notes:

The first stated purpose in the plan is “a common standard for student performance across the system of traditional public, charter public, and non public schools.” However, the plan as adopted completely ignores that purpose….. Public schools are given a letter grade of A, B, C, D, or F, but voucher schools will NOT receive a letter grade. The State Superintendent can’t waive any part of the accountability system for public school, but he can waive any provision in the accountability plan for voucher schools. Another purpose of the adopted plan is to uphold the public trust when public funds are involved. Clearly the accountability plan presented makes a mockery of the public trust.

I will once again note that Mitt Romney’s rarely discussed proposal to convert all federal K-12 education funds into vouchers lets them be used at any school that state law authorizes as recipients of public dollars. Between Mitt and Bobby, the struggling public education system in Louisiana would be dealt a one-two punch from which it would probably never recover.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • majun on July 26, 2012 11:31 AM:

    Rural areas of Pakistan have long relied on Saudi money to finance wahabbi madrassas in order to provide any education at all for that population. It has obviously worked so well that Louisiana seems to be adopting that as their model for public education. So I guess in the next generation or so Louisiana will become the US equivalent of the federally administered tribal areas of Pakistan. It has worked out so well there, why not here?

  • stormskies on July 26, 2012 11:33 AM:

    Great and when these students graduate from these christian religious schools that graduation certificate should say 'the student received an 'a' in stupidity...

  • Ron Byers on July 26, 2012 11:43 AM:

    A truly great school administrator told me once that America cannot afford to waste a single child if we are to compete in the 21st Century. It sounds like Jindal is prepared to waste the lives of all of the children in his state. What a pity.

  • TeamAmercia on July 26, 2012 11:47 AM:

    Where does this stand on the line of the separation of church and state? It seems like this should be unconstitutional to give taxpayer money to schools teaching certain religion's values (especially if they only give it to Christians, as this would essentially be establishing a State Religion).

  • danimal on July 26, 2012 11:55 AM:

    How long before colleges and employers start laughing when a LA student applies for school/work? At some point, actual learning becomes important for LA students to further their education and earn a living. Until then, expect the Jindal/GOP pandering to continue unabated.

  • fqmorris on July 26, 2012 11:57 AM:

    Bobby Jindal is doing his very best to get Mitt's attention, and to behis VP pick. He really really wants it. Like Mitt, he's actually much smarter than this legilation, but all that matters is a boost to be VP.

  • ckelly on July 26, 2012 12:02 PM:

    Bobby Jindal is doing his very best to get Mitt's attention, and to be his VP pick.

    You misspelled prick.

  • James E. Powell on July 26, 2012 12:03 PM:

    The mistake is to think that the American tax-paying voters have any interest in public education for children other than their own. They do not regard public education as a public good, except in the abstract. This includes tote-baggers who have the income and education to make sure that their children are educated, in and out of school.

    They do not regard public education as a public good. They regard it as an expense that they would like to reduce or, at worst, keep capped where it is. And their attraction to and support of privatization is not based on the belief that corporations will provide better education. They believe that it will be cheaper. This is an outgrowth of the propaganda that government should be 'run like a business,' which mostly means paying employees less and requiring them to work more hours.

    The core problem, that there is no broad base of support for public education, is never part of the debate.

  • Mimikatz on July 26, 2012 12:03 PM:

    Jindal truly is sacrificing a generation of LA kids on the altar of ideological purity.

    Mitt can't afford to pick Jindal. He is going to scare moderates. If there is anything middle and especially upper middle class people care about it is their kids' education.

    Plus, Mitt has to pick a VP who knows somehing about how the federal gov't works. Mitt himself doesn't know, and he apparently believes he is going to win because he deserves to win. He will pick Portman for this reason

  • c u n d gulag on July 26, 2012 12:04 PM:

    You know what, if this stopped at the borders of LA, or any other feckin' dumbass Red State, I no longer give a feckin'sh*t!

    If parent's are too feckin' STOOOOOPID to want their children to get a good, solid education, and want them to be as stupid and ignorant as they are, than it's their loss - and sadly, a loss for their children.

    What company in its right mind, besides Chick Fil-A, would want a bunch of Bible-spouting morons, who can't do any basic math, and don't have the critical thinking skills God gave a shrimp?

    If that's what the people in the state vote for in their politicians, then they need to learn the consequences of their actions.
    Even if it takes a generation or two of gibbering, simpering, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing morons, who are unemployable, except as basic, back-breaking labor - and then, nothing involving CONstruction, since what you build, you might want to have stand longer than a month or two.

    But sadly, LA is going to be the model for the "Idiotization" of America.

    People need to realize that Privatization" is far, far, worse than even the most drastic tax hike.

    With tax money given to government programs, you have accountability - you can vote out the politicians who can't properly oversee something, and hire someone who can.

    "Privatization" is nothing more than politicians taking people's hard-earned tax money, and turning it over to their cronies for either kick-back's, or lifetime jobs when the they tire of having to stump amongst the people for votes.
    Or both.

    Privatization is the greatest scam in the world - it takes people tax money, and moves it into the wallets and off-shore accounts of the grifters who have the connections to bribe the politicians, who can then bilk the public.

    But, hey, LA, it's YOUR kids lives and futures, and YOUR tax dollars - so who am I to tell you that an education based solely on The Bible is about as useful as having the hitching-post concession along a superhighway?

    So, feck' it all up, I don't give a sh*t. Just leave the rest of us out of it.

    Oh, but, you can't, can you?
    Goshdurnit, if MY kid's going to be a simpering, drooling moron, then EVERYONE'S kid has to be a simpering, drooling moron!

    Is that the word that Christ asked you to spread?

  • schtick on July 26, 2012 12:28 PM:

    So they want to ensure that the whole state is as stupid as the people that watch Faux Fake and BS Gnews. Just hope they hire out of state people to work on their levees.

  • John B. on July 26, 2012 12:44 PM:

    More than most Americans realize, free public K-12 education -- as most notably championed by Horace Mann (1756-1859) -- over time has been the one big distinguishing difference between the U.S. and the rest of the world. It made America great. It's taken much of the rest of the world a long time to realize that was the key to our success as a nation.

    China only figured it out about five years ago. They are now implementing free public K-12 education throughout the nation for the very first time in that nation's history. I was there when the plan was announced. The equivalent of a cabinet minister told me "In China eighty percent of the people are below what you call the poverty line. Over a billion people. We know this will never change unless we do what America did and provide every child with a good education, not just those who can afford it."

    Ironic that China is discovering the key to success just as we seem to be willfully throwing it away.

  • Jack Lindahl on July 26, 2012 1:50 PM:

    The voters of Louisiana elected and re-elected these people, and so I have to assume that these are the policies the voters of that state want. This is democracy - when you go out to vote your guy tends to win. When you stay home and complain, you end up giving your tax dollars to churches.

  • Mitch on July 26, 2012 2:32 PM:

    I see many people bemoaning this. Saying things like, "But the children's lives will be ruined! What kind of careers can they achieve with such a pathetic excuse for education?"

    We should all understand that plutocrats and theocrats WANT to keep the masses ignorant and easily manageable. This is how the world has worked since we chose to move our butts out of caves and to cover those butts with bear skin. The creation of helpless and uneducated people is the goal.

    It is a feature, not a bug.

    Imagine the world twenty years from now. These children will be fit for little more than running a cash register or doing menial labor. Of course, cash registers will be a thing of the past by that point, and menial labor will be outsourced as much as possible.

    This will leave these students utterly helpless. Totally dependant upon the grace of those who deign to help support them. Since another goal of the GOP is to abolish all social safety nets, these children will have no options but to seek aid from religious organizations and - if they are lucky - the largesse of philanthropists. I am reminded of alms for the poor during the pre-modern era. Just like back then, obedience and warm bodies are all the ruling class wants from the bulk population.

    Nevermind that, in America, the bulk population is supposed to BE the ruling class. The times, they are a-changin'.

    Who needs outright aristocracy or theocracy, when you can disguise both under the mask of democracy? Keep the people dumb, hungry and - most importantly - unable to improve their situation. Earn their votes by appealing to their basest instincts, fear and hate of The Other or the unbending demands of religious authority. Use their faith to increase the power of religious authorities and the modern aristocracy over every aspect of their lives.

    We can see this already in the Right's vile demands for "religious freedom" - by which they mean the freedom for force religion upon others - and the modern "conservative" worship of the wealthy - the modern Divine Right of Kings; the Divine Right of the Wealthy. We see how such anti-democratic, anti-American ideals are influencing our culture right now. How much worse will it be after a generation or two has been "educated" in Christian Madrassas such as in LA?

    As I have said before, the medieval Estates of the Realm were the nobility, the clergy and the commoners.

    This is EXACTLY what the GOP is attempting to achieve once again. And, like the 98% of the ancient European population, far too many Americans willingly sacrifice the advances of the last few centuries, and the hopes of future generations, in the service to their Lords and Priests.

    Enough of my babbling. Let's turn this over to John Adams:

    "The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning.... And, even since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate A FREE INQUIRY? The blackest billingsgate, the most ungentlemanly insolence, the most yahooish brutality is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated, and applauded. But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will soon find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your legs and hands, and fly into your face and eyes." -John Adams, in a letter to John Taylor

  • JM917 on July 26, 2012 3:36 PM:

    @ Mitch:

    Last night, falling into an increasingly dismal mood, I reread Orwell's 1984 for the first time in many years.

    Take a look at what Orwell says about the way "the Party" of 1984 treats "the proles."

    Orwell's "proles" might as well be living in Jindall's Louisiana, and what the corporate/Teapublican elite has in mind for the rest of us sounds, ever more disturbingly, like the totalitarian nightmare of 1984--Newspeak and all. "WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH."

  • Mitch on July 26, 2012 4:36 PM:


    I haven't read 1984 in a few years. Last time I did (during the reign of Bush the Lesser) I suffered profound depression for weeks.

    Because you are correct. 100%

    The GOP will never say FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, due to their need to preserve a Libertarian appearance (and ONLY appearance). That's too blunt even for them. If you revised it a little bit (maybe with a religious spin), it could very well be the modern GOP motto. How about:


    Of course, they would be the ones who determine what it means to "obey God" just as theocrats and royalty have since at least Hammurabi.

  • Pencarrow on July 26, 2012 10:14 PM:

    Well, I live in Louisiana, so if I may, let me add an element to this discussion. The voucher program appears to be very well received by the parents of school age children in Louisiana. Parents are saying that they like the option of having their child attend a school outside of the public system. Obviously, those parents who believe the public school options are fine for their children, will keep them in those schools. But for those parents who see the public system as a problem, now have the option to move their children to schools that they feel will be more beneficial to their children's education and intellectual growth.

    Private schools have been a mainstay in Louisiana for decades, and parents that could afford the roughly $7-9K a year to send their kids to the best private (and mostly Catholic) schools did so. Now, the doors to those high quality private schools are open to parents that could not previously afford the costs of sending their children there. More interestingly, though, the advent of new charter schools is providing better options for the more advanced learning students as well as the slower-learning students. In general, feedback from parents is positive as to the potential that this new voucher program will offer. Time will tell, of course, but at least here in Louisiana, they are trying to improve what has been a weak public school system.

  • billb on July 26, 2012 10:59 PM:

    There is no saving the ignorant from themselves.
    We should just give up on the reconstruction idea
    of fixing the 17th century south. Take the Fence
    off the mexican border and swing it up to exclude
    the backwards leaning folk. Y'all are free to be
    stupid religious freaks , just don't do it in our
    21st century country.

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