Articles in the School Vouchers category

School attorneys get advice on voucher litigation

As school districts and states across the country gear up to face potential school voucher litigation, lawyers from Louisiana and Arizona offered advice and lessons learned to members of NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys (COSA) on Friday during the second day of the 2014 School Law Seminar in New Orleans.

Robert Hammonds of Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice, of Baton Rouge, La., and Christopher Thomas, with Arizona School Boards Association, were the featured speakers at the Friday morning session.

Hammonds represented the Louisiana School Boards Association in the state Supreme Court case against the state’s voucher program. LSBA was a plaintive in the case. The court ruled in 2013 that the voucher program was unconstitutional.

“I’ve attempted to give you some options if you are confronting a voucher challenge,” said Hammonds. “These are strategies that we used.”

The Louisiana voucher law allowed money from the state public education funding formula to go directly to private schools for students who opted out of the public schools. The state constitution says the state funding board was charged with equitably allocating funds to public schools.

“We said: ‘How can you use public money to fund nonpublic schools?’ We challenged based on state constitution,” said Hammonds. “Many of your states have similar provisions in your constitution. If you get in that situation, those provisions are there.”

Another option to fight vouchers: desegregation orders. Hammonds said some districts have successfully challenged voucher programs by proving that such programs prevented them from following their court-ordered desegregation plans.

A third option is turning to an independent state auditor, such as the one in Louisiana. Because this position is independent of partisan politics, he or she can evaluate the voucher program on its fairness and merits. The Louisiana auditor found many issues with the state voucher program. “If you have similar position in state, look to it,” Hammonds said.

Thomas talked about the choice and voucher cases in Arizona. He warned the audience of a new voucher tact: empowerment scholarship accounts. These allow parents of certain groups of children, such as those with IEPs, to send their children to private schools and the state will pay the tuition.

A lower court validated the program, saying the money went to parents, not private schools. The Arizona Supreme Court recently declined to hear the case, leaving the lower court ruling intact. Proponents now are gearing up to expand access to the programs. Said Thomas, “It will be coming to you.”

The School Law Seminar continues through Saturday.

 

Kathleen Vail|April 4th, 2014|Categories: Council of School Attorneys, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, School Law, School Vouchers|Tags: , , |

Report: Pennsylvania’s charters are costly to traditional public schools

Pennsylvania’s growing number of charter and cyber-charter schools do not save school districts money and, in many cases, add to their expenses, says a new report from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA).

“Charter schools do not charge a standard rate for their educational services,” says the report by PSBA’s Education Research and Policy Center. “In fact, the amount paid to charter schools varies greatly by school district, and is often completely unrelated to the actual operational costs incurred by charter schools.”

Tuition payments to Pennsylvania charter schools rose from $960 million in 2010-11 to more than $1.15 billion in 2011-12.

The tuition calculation for charter schools is much the same as for the per-student Actual Institutional Expense (AIE) of traditional schools; however, several cost elements excluded from the AIE —  for example, early intervention, vocational expenditures, and selected federal revenue — are included in the charter school tuition formula, thus driving up the cost of this subsidy, the report said.

“The problem is compounded by the fact that in most cases, less than 30 students from each district building attend charters, meaning districts are unable to reduce overhead costs, such as heating and electricity,” the report said. “Neither are school districts able to reduce the size of their faculty or staff.”

In addition, many students choosing to attend charter or cyber-charter schools were previously attending private schools or being home-schooled, meaning that these tuition payments are “an entirely new expense for school districts,” the report said.

PSBA’s report made several recommendations, among them requesting that the state set “reasonable limits” on the amount of unexpended tuition funds charters can receive from school districts and that these schools be required to return any unused balances to the district that sent them the money.

 

 

Lawrence Hardy|February 12th, 2014|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Privatization, School Vouchers, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , |

Public advocacy is a must, NSBA panelists tell school boards

School board members must speak up and speak out about the successes and challenges of their local public schools, panelists told 750 school board members at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) first annual Advocacy Institute.

Competing interests — including those who want to privatize the system — are already defining the message and potentially putting school boards and public schools out of business, some media experts warned.

NSBA also announced its national campaign, which will promote public schools and help local school board members engage their constituents. The campaign includes a new website and national print and online advertisements featuring celebrities such as former NBA star and education advocate Earvin “Magic” Johnson, television personality Montel Williams, and Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy.

Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, noted that last year’s annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll on public education reported an all-time high — 53 percent — of Americans surveyed graded their local public schools with an A or B. Nearly three quarters of public school parents would give the school their oldest child attends an A or a B. However, when asked about the nation’s public schools overall, only 18 percent gave public education an A or B.

And those results —  support for  local public schools, but skepticism of public education in general  – were mirrored in several other poll questions, Busteed said. “There is a huge gap between the reality of the local level and nationally.”

Washington Post columnist Valerie Strauss, who writes The Answer Sheet blog, told school board members  that they must do a better job working with local and national media. That means finding important stories about their community’s public schools and bringing them to journalists.

“When you don’t speak up, your critics define you, and that’s what’s happening,” she said. “I don’t hear much from you, either individually or as groups.”

Further, school board members should understand student performance data in order to rebut false claims about public education. “You have to play the data game and you have to do it better,” Strauss added.

In an earlier panel, NSBA invited school voucher advocates, including representatives from the CATO Institute and the American Federation for Children (AFC), organizations that have pushed for expanded school choice, to present their ideas and K-12 platforms. While the panel was designed to showcase oppositional ideas, the panelists and school board members found common ground with CATO’s dislike of federal regulations and AFC Executive Counsel Kevin P. Chavous’ remarks on the need for student achievement.

 

Lawrence Hardy|February 5th, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools, Federal Advocacy, School Reform, School Vouchers, Uncategorized|Tags: , |

NSBA featured in major media on school choice concerns

After Republicans introduced legislation that would allow states to send up to $24 billion in federal funding toward school choice programs, National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel offered a reality check on the performance of charter schools, vouchers, and other measures. Gentzel appeared on Fox News and was quoted in The Washington Post and The New York Times stories on the measure.

“We certainly haven’t seen any consistent evidence anywhere in the country that these kinds of programs are effective or producing better results,” said Gentzel, who appeared on a segment during Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier on the Senate proposal, introduced this week by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has introduced legislation in the House that also would include some students with disabilities and use funds from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Watch the video segment.

In the New York Times article, Gentzel countered proponents of school choice who claim that traditional public schools have not improved fast enough, and that low-income families should have other choices.

“The big issue is really that lack of accountability,” Gentzel told the Times. “Frankly, our view is every child should have access to a great public school where they live.”

In The Washington Post, Gentzel discussed Alexander’s proposal, the “Scholarships for Kids Act,” which would allow states to create $2,100 scholarships from existing federal K-12 programs, including Title I, to “follow” 11 million children whose families meet the federal to any public or private school of their parents’ choice. The total cost would be $24 billion—41 percent of the current federal education allotment.

“School choice is a well-funded and politically powerful movement seeking to privatize much of American education,” he told the Post. “We’re not against public charters, and there are some that are well-motivated. . . . But our goal is that public schools be schools of choice. We need to invest and support public schools, not divert money and attention from them to what amounts, in many cases, to experiments.”

Reginald Felton, NSBA’s Interim Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, also told Governing magazine that Title I would inevitably face cuts under Lamar’s plan, along with other programs that benefit disadvantaged children. For states that would choose not to opt into the proposed program, that means less money is available for their most vulnerable populations, he said.

“It’s hard for us to believe that a $24 billion reallocation could exist without drastically reducing funding for Title I students,” he told Governing.

The Ohio Schools Boards Association (OSBA) recently showcased how funding to choice programs hurts neighborhood public schools. In its December newsletter, OSBA notes, “Ohio Department of Education data shows traditional public schools will lose more than $870 million in state funding to charter schools in fiscal year (FY) 2014. That’s an increase of 5.4 percent over FY 2013, when approximately $824 million was transferred from traditional public schools to charters. This increase comes amid ongoing reports of charter school mismanagement, conflicts of interest and felony indictments and convictions.”

According to CREDO (Center for Research on Educational Outcomes) research on charters, states that empower multiple authorizing agencies are more likely to report the weakest academic results for charter schools. Local governance – enacted by local school boards – offers transparency and accountability along with a direct focus on student achievement versus profit.

In 2008, 64 percent of Ohio’s charter schools were on academic watch or emergency status, compared to 9 percent of traditional public schools, according to “The Regulation of Charter Schools” in the Jan./Feb. issue of American School Board Journal.

While the state changed its regulations in 2008, ASBJ cites the case of Hope Academy Cathedral, a K-8 charter school in Cleveland, as an example of the loopholes that exist in Ohio’s charter law. The school was ordered to close in 2011 after repeatedly being rated as in “academic emergency.”

Less than two months later, a new K-8 charter — Woodland Academy — opened in the same building, with 15 returning staff members, the same authorizer, and the same for-profit management firm, wrote ASBJ Senior Editor Del Stover. In its first year of operation, the new charter school also was judged to be in academic emergency.

 

 

NSBA touts public schools as strong choices

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is calling for public schools to be schools of choice during National School Choice Week. It is warning lawmakers not to divert funds away from public schools in favor of unproven educational experiments.

Getting lost in the hype around National School Choice Week, school voucher legislation, and calls for expanded options for low-income students is the fact that public education already offers many options—including magnet schools and district-authorized charters. Further, some states are using taxpayer-funded vouchers and tax credits as an excuse not to fund their community public schools that educate all children, NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said in a conference with reporters on Jan. 27.

“Public schools have a track record that we can be very proud of,” Gentzel said. It’s important to have innovations in education, he added. However, “experiments should not come at the expense of low-income children.”

Students suffer when “choice” schools go out of business, are shut down, or are allowed to continue to operate without any accountability.

In the call, Gentzel and other NSBA experts noted that:

  • Not all school choice is equal: Some forms of school choice operate outside the public system with little or no oversight and accountability for student learning and fiscal stewardship of taxpayer funds. Gentzel recommended what he dubbed a “nutritional label” that would require any school that receives public funds to be required to show the same results as students in the community public schools.
  • “Choice” is not a reform strategy: Research shows that the schools parents choose are more likely to be the same or even worse than the community public school they leave. Charter school successes such as KIPP Academies and the Harlem Children’s Zone are the exception rather than rule, Gentzel said, and many charter and voucher schools are performing significantly worse than traditional public schools.
  • Local school boards are in the best position to oversee school choice options and hold schools accountable for student learning and finances. Gentzel noted that NSBA supports charter schools and believes local school boards understand local communities’ needs and look out for their interests. Further, according to the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO), a major education research organization, states that empower multiple authorizing agencies are most likely to report the weakest academic results for charters.

The February issue of American School Board Journal discusses the regulation of charter schools and how lawmakers should build policies to avoid abuses of the system and failing schools. For example, in Columbus, Ohio, a record 17 charters closed last year for poor performance. Many of these charters had only been open a few months. Ohio allows for multiple authorizers.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 27th, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools, School Boards, School Reform, School Vouchers, Uncategorized|

National Coalition for Public Education offers sample Tweets on vouchers

The National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE) recently offered the following guide to using Twitter during National School Choice Week, Jan. 26-Feb. 1, 2014.  NSBA is a member of NCPE, which is made up of more than 50 education, civil rights, civic, and religious organizations that work together to fight vouchers and promote strong public schools.

Thank you for engaging in NCPE’S twitter campaign during National School Choice Week. This information should be of use to anyone in your organization who has a twitter account and is interested in helping NCPE successfully counter the pro-voucher messaging that will be a major part of National School Choice Week’s campaign.

Tip #1: School Choice Week will be using the hashtag #SCW. While it’s unnecessary to use this hashtag for every tweet, consider emphasizing and borrowing the #SCW hashtag some of your tweets. This will allow NCPE to disrupt the narrative the Choice Week organizers are putting out and will make our social media campaign a success.

Tip #2: Try not to overload your tweets with hashtags. If you’ve used #voucher, you don’t really need to add #voucherfail at the end.  The more concise the tweet, the higher the likelihood others will re-tweet you.

Sample Tweets

DC schools couldn’t account for more than 1 in 5 students given taxpayer-funded vouchers. #voucherfail  http://bit.ly/1bWbx5V

#Vouchers have helped spread the teaching of junk creationist “science.” http://on.msnbc.com/1eHJ8E7

DC’s voucher schools vary drastically because the system lacks basic quality controls. #voucherfail  http://wapo.st/1cBCCid

Taxpayer-funded tuition tax credits in Georgia fund schools with anti-gay policies and curriculum.  http://nyti.ms/1dwHHpH #schoolchoicefail

Test scores shows that students in Milwaukee public schools outperformed students in #voucher schools http://bit.ly/1ghHKJt

Voters don’t like vouchers: over 30 years, voucher ballot measures have been defeated every time they appeared on a ballot #voucherfail

#Voucher schools often discriminate against students with special needs http://bit.ly/1eHLKla

Religious freedom provisions in many state constitutions bar vouchers for religious schools http://bit.ly/1bSdf8q  #voucherfail

Florida voters rejected a constitutional amendment to funnel public funds directly to religious schools in 2012 http://bit.ly/1aIejvV #voucherfail

Public funds should pay only for public schools that are open to all children and accountable to the taxpayers. #voucherfail

Your taxpayer dollars shouldn’t fund #vouchers for schools that teach creationist “science” or debunked “Christian nation” history.

#Vouchers are ineffective, lack accountability to taxpayers, and deprive students of rights provided to public school students #voucherfail

Public funds for public schools! Tax dollars should fund education for everyone, not a select few. #voucherfail

Our public schools deserve support. They’re safe, neutral zones where students can learn free of discrimination #voucherfail

#Voucher schools use your tax dollars. So what do they teach? http://on.msnbc.com/1eHJ8E7

Sectarian #voucher schools can discriminate against students based on special needs, sexual orientation, and gender.

#Voucher schools don’t solve social inequality. They contribute to it: http://bit.ly/1er5YPU

In North Carolina, #vouchers give taxpayer money to homeschool families, too. http://bit.ly/1hwhHC0

Private school #vouchers don’t actually guarantee students a safe, quality education.

#VoucherFail Tumblr

Also, we welcome you to link to our #voucherfail tumbr at http://voucherfail.tumblr.com/.  We already have relevant articles posted there.  And, we have some funny memes from last year that you might want to direct people to again this year.  Keep checking it too, as we will continue to update it during school choice week.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 22nd, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Legislative advocacy, School Reform, School Vouchers, Social Networking|Tags: , , |

Expanding School Choice: An Education Revolution or Diversion?

Patte Barth,  director of the Center for Public Education at the National School Boards Association, penned  the following column for the Huffington Post:

House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) was speaking recently at the release of the Brookings Institution’s latest report on Education Choice and Competition. Calling these policies “an education revolution,” the House leader baldly stated, “school choice is the surest way to break [the] vicious cycle of poverty.”

Not “a solid education.”  School choice.

The Brookings’ report ranks 100 large districts on their school choice policies. Their report came out in advance of National School Choice Week whose organizers boast 5,500 scheduled events across the country beginning January 26, 2014. Both share a goal to drum up more support for funneling tax dollars into educational options — whether they be charters, magnets, private, or virtual schools.  The rationale is that a free marketplace will force schools to innovate in order to compete for students. Popular schools will equate with “good schools” and unpopular ones will close. And thus, in Brookings words, we will raise “the quality of the product.”

Unfortunately, that’s one mighty big assumption.

Most choice advocates defend their position by pointing to successful charter schools in New York City and elsewhere. Others extol the promise of virtual learning. What they all provide, for the most part, is anecdote, intuition and belief. When they do cite data, it basically shows that choice policies work in some places with some students some of the time.  Truth is, the evidence is much spottier than the champions for choice would have us believe.

Charter schools, for example, are the most studied “choice” reform.  Charter schools are public schools that have certain requirements waived so they can try out new ideas.  There is much to commend successful charters and what they are learning about effective practices. But according to a 2013 study from Stanford researchers, these are the exception. Only one in four charter schools outperforms its traditional public school counterpart in reading. About one in five performs significantly worse. In math, it’s nearly one in three.

The quality of research on voucher programs is notoriously uneven and often contradictory. Nonetheless, there seems to be general agreement that vouchers may have had a modest impact on some low-income and minority youth in some urban districts. But the findings are inconclusive as to their effect overall.  And the general efficacy of virtual schools is a big unknown, largely because districts lack the infrastructure to sufficiently track student performance in online environments.

Ironically, the Brookings report card itself illustrates the disconnect between choice policies on one hand and student performance on the other.  One does not necessarily follow the other.

Only three districts earned A’s on Brookings choice and competition rankings:  Louisiana’s Recovery District, Orleans Parish and New York City. Along with its Brookings “A,” Orleans Parish earned an “A” on Louisiana’s report card for district performance.  Yet the state gave the Recovery District an F. New York City’s A- from Brookings bears little relation to its math scores on NAEP, a national assessment. The city’s scores were at the average for large cities, and below average in terms of gains over the last decade.

Then there’s the low end of the rankings. Atlanta was given an “F” by Brookings. Yet the city boasts fourth-graders who perform above the national “large city” average in reading and posted more than twice the gains their peers made nationwide.  Charlotte, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas, are among the highest performing urban districts in both math and reading. Brookings gave them a C and D respectively.

see full data tables

 

So what does this tell us? That high-achieving, high-gaining districts can have “choice and competition” or not. Either way, it shows it’s a mistake to claim, as Rep. Cantor does, that choice is “the surest way to break the cycle of poverty.”

Contrary to popular perception, public schools have been steadily improving over the last twenty years. Math performance and graduation rates, in particular, are at all-time highs. Neither are public schools the monolithic creature some of the choice advocates make them out to be. Many districts across the country already offer alternatives in the form of charter and magnet schools, and continue to diversify instructional programs in traditional neighborhood schools, too. But parents and students need assurance that the choices they are offered are good ones, something choice for choice’s sake has not done, as the research shows.

In addition, it’s one thing to offer alternatives. It’s quite another to encourage public schools to compete with each other for students which could send the wrong messages. We need only look to our colleges and universities who, in their race to attract students, build football teams and state-of-the-art facilities at the expense of investments in teaching.  I really doubt that’s the kind of marketplace we want to create for public schools.

Far from an education revolution, the political attention given choice and competition is diverting us from the hard work of making sure public schools prepare every child for their next steps after graduation.  This means continuing to invest in those things that an abundance of evidence shows consistently work  – access to high-quality pre-kindergarten, effective teachers, rigorous curriculum and individualized instruction for students. It also means learning from successful schools — including schools of choice — about what works with different students in which situations, and bringing those practices to scale.  When we get that right, districts will earn the grades that really matter.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 22nd, 2014|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Religion, School Law, School Reform, School Vouchers, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , , |

NCSBA lawsuit challenges constitutionality of voucher law

The following story was written by the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA):

A lawsuit filed on Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 in Wake County Superior Court challenges the constitutionality of legislation passed earlier this year that creates a private school voucher program using public funds. Under the legislation, which takes effect in the 2014-15 school year, a private school can receive up to $4,200 in public funding for each eligible student that it enrolls. The legislation does not require that a student struggle academically or attend a poorly performing public school in order to receive a voucher. It also does not require any assurance that public funds will be spent to provide students with an adequate education and one that is offered on a non-discriminatory basis.

The suit was filed by four individual taxpayers, three of whom have children attending public schools, and the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA), a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership association that represents all 115 local boards of education in the state and the Board of Education of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation.

The legislation initially appropriates $10 million in public funds. The complaint alleges that public funding will rise to $50 million in future budget cycles.

“This challenge raises important questions about the use of public funds and our commitment to North Carolina’s students,” said Shearra Miller, president of the NCSBA and a member of the Cleveland County Board of Education. “By diverting funding from the public schools, vouchers have the potential to significantly damage individual school systems, particularly in smaller districts. As a local board member, I am concerned about the impact that will have on our students. In addition, the voucher program does not ensure that private schools that receive public funding will adhere to our constitution’s promise that students will have the opportunity to receive a sound basic education and will not face discrimination. Given all of these issues, the NCSBA Board of Directors felt strongly that the organization should raise these questions in court.”

The complaint asserts that the legislation violates the state constitution by:

• Using public dollars for a non-public purpose—private education opportunities outside of the constitutionally required “general and uniform system of free public schools;”

• Failing to require participating private schools to adhere to any substantive educational standards or practice non-discriminatory admissions;

• Diverting public dollars from the State School Fund, which is to be used “exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of public schools;” and

• Creating a system of selective secondary educational opportunities that denies students equal opportunities.

 

Staff|December 19th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Finance, Policy Formation, School Boards, School Law, School Vouchers, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , |

Ravitch: We can learn a lot from Finland — and from our own public schools

Diane Ravitch praised the Finnish schools in a recent speech in Washington, D.C. But it was another nation’s public education system — and the remarkable progress it has made over the past 40 years — that most impressed the celebrated author and education historian.

What country is this? The United States, of course. During that time, student achievement has increased overall, even as today’s student population has become more racially, economically, and culturally diverse. Graduation rates also are rising. And “dropout rates,” said Ravitch, a keynote speaker at NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference in San Diego, “are the lowest they’ve been in history.”

But if you read some of the anti-public school literature out there, or watched some purportedly “balanced” news reports, you could easily be fooled into thinking something much different, said Ravitch, who spoke at the Economic Policy Institute about her new book on public school reform, Reign of Error.

As an example, Ravitch cited a 2012 report called “U.S. Education Reform and National Security,” by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, now head of Rupert Murdoch’s strongly pro-voucher News Corp. The report claims, contrary to the evidence Ravitch cites in the Long-Term Trend report of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), that U.S. schools are so bad they have “become a grave security risk.”

Ravitch devotes much of her new book to the high performing public schools in Finland, a place where she says teaching is a highly respected — and highly selective — occupation, where teachers and principals belong to a common union, and where public education of the highest quality is seen as a national obligation.

“They don’t have charters,” Ravitch said. “They don’t have vouchers. …. There is no Teach for Finland.”

U. S. schools are doing a lot right, too, Ravitch said. In fact, some of the highest-scoring nations on international tests — Singapore among them – are looking at how U.S. schools embrace creativity and teach problem-solving skills. Ironically, with the recent emphasis on high-stakes testing, she added, “We’re moving in the opposite direction.”

“And now we have kindergarten children taking bubble-in tests,” Ravitch said. “This is insane.”

Ravitch criticized the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, which she said “has put $5 billion into the pursuit of higher test scores.” She said the money could have been put to better use in efforts to address the growing segregation of many public schools by race and income, particularly in the South and West.

“We’re not trying to solve the real problem, which is child poverty,” Ravitch said. “Poverty is the elephant in the room.”

Elaine Weiss, national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, also spoke at the event. Weingarten said budget cuts have harmed school systems across the country, opening them up to criticism and threats of privatization. However, studies consistently show that privatization does not lead to higher student performance while resulting, in many instances, in greater economic and racial segregation.

Lawrence Hardy|October 22nd, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Charter Schools, Comparative Education, Conferences and Events, Curriculum, Diversity, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Privatization, Race to the Top (RTTT), School Board News, School Vouchers, Student Achievement, Student Engagement|

LSBA: U.S. Justice Dept. action in Louisiana vouchers shows weakness of law

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Louisiana to stop a voucher program spending millions in taxpayer funds to send low-income students to private and religious schools, saying that the vouchers have impeded long-standing desegregation orders in many of the state’s school districts.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) joined the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA) in a lawsuit last year challenging the legality of the voucher plan, which was pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and GOP lawmakers. The LSBA lawsuit ultimately prevailed when the state’s Supreme Court found the funding mechanism to be unconstitutional but the GOP-led legislature is attempting to keep the program alive through alternative funding sources.

LSBA has closely monitored desegregation litigation in Louisiana for many years. LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard noted that many school boards have spent millions of dollars in order to attain unitary status and freedom from federal oversight due to past discriminatory practices—and this latest round of legal problems with the Louisiana voucher program only exacerbates the issues raised in the recent state Supreme Court ruling that struck down the law and highlighted the program’s illegal funding schemes.

“The fact that the U.S. Department of Justice has to get involved at this point again punches holes in the flawed legislation,” Richard said. “It is irresponsible that state government in Louisiana, with all of the legal resources available, would move forward with this effort fully knowing that many school districts continue to be under federal desegregation orders – basically ignoring federal law.”

Proponents for the voucher plan have decried the federal government’s move and argued that the vouchers help low-income students “escape failing schools.” However, LSBA and other education groups have countered that the plan actually allows kindergarteners zoned for high-achieving public schools—those graded A or B—to receive vouchers as well.

Thirty-four school districts, of which 22 send students to private schools using voucher funds, would be subject to the Justice Department’s ruling, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune.

 

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 28th, 2013|Categories: Educational Finance, Governance, Privatization, School Boards, School Law, School Reform, School Vouchers, State School Boards Associations, Uncategorized|Tags: , , |
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