Louisiana’s Governor is the radical right-winger Bobby Jindal, and its State Superintendent John White, trained under the Voldemort of education reform, Joel Klein. It has a state board of education whose most recently elected member is the state director of TFA, who ran a campaign funded by billionaire Bloomberg.
Today, Diane Ravitch wrote about the philosophy behind Jindal and White’s privatization effort, a massive and hurriedly-approved voucher program to throw government funds at private schools, seemingly at random, no matter whether they have a track record in improving outcomes for kids or even facilities in which to put them. As she said, this indicates a disturbing attitude: “We don’t know how to fix the public schools so we will hand out public money to anyone who wants it.”
Exactly right; this is almost exactly what John White said when he was Deputy Chancellor of NYC Department of Education in testimony before the NYC Council. He admitted that he and the other corporate reformers at Tweed had NO IDEA how to improve schools, so their strategy (if you can call it that ) was to open as many new schools and charters as possible, and close struggling schools, in hopes that this essentially random process would lift the system as a whole.
Unfortunately it has not worked either in NYC and elsewhere, and has led to a huge waste of money and tremendous chaos for communities and churn in the life of students, displaced from one school to another, when what they really need is more stability and better learning environments.
As Robert Jackson, the chair of the NYC Council education committee said many times to Tweed educrats, if you don’t know how to improve schools, then resign and get out of the way, and allow real educators with proven ideas about reform to run the system.
The following critique is written by Mary K. Bellisario, Vice President of the St. Tammany Parish School Board in Louisiana, and a founding member of the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education.
Be afraid; be very afraid. This is the future of public education in our nation if the corporate reformers have their way.
Here is more information on the Westlake “voucher” school . These are the types of “schools” for which the Jindal administration and a majority of the legislators are allowing parents to exercise their “choice”?
Before the reports of Living Word “Academy” in Ruston (a metal hut), the BeauVer “Academy” in DeRidder, this one, Eternity Christian “Academy” in Westlake, and several others like them around the state, there was no plan by the Dept. of Education for site visits, etc. A state legislative committee grilled Supt. John White, and it was after that, that the Department announced it would make some site visits, and that the schools had only received “temporary” approval. However, all the voucher schools had already received “approval” letters, with no stipulations for any further criteria to be met.
Just as the legislation was rushed through the legislature, with barely any opportunity for legislators’ questions or for public input, the voucher program was rushed into implementation, with no prior site visits, no background checks, and no announced criteria.
Anything goes, apparently. Voucher schools don’t even have to have certified teachers, don’t even have to have a standard facility, don’t have to offer modern technology, don’t have to offer lunch, don’t even have to maintain separation of church and state. Do their employees have to undergo background checks? I doubt it, since there haven’t been any announced criteria.
As a parent, give me an accredited, regulated, traditional public school, with certified teachers, whose backgrounds have been checked out, and with a challenging, academic curriculum, devoid of any religion’s verses–Biblical, Islamic or otherwise–any day. That’s my choice. –Mary K. Bellisario