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Louisiana's school vouchers need tough rules: An editorial, Times-Picayune, 7/6/12

posted Jul 6, 2012, 3:29 AM by Bill Duncan

The scarcity of teachers and classroom space at New Living Word School in Ruston has quickly become a cautionary tale for the state's expanding school voucher program.

Rusty Costanza/The Times-PicayuneLawmakers entrusted Louisiana education Superintendent John White and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education with establishing an accountability system for the state's expanded voucher program. That hasn't happened.

The 122 students at New Living Word get most of their instruction via DVD, the school's principal told the News-Star in Monroe. And the school has neither facilities nor staff to handle the more than 300 voucher students the state Department of Education OK'd for it, he said.

In response to criticism, state schools Superintendent John White said his department always planned to further vet New Living Word and other schools seeking voucher students. But Mr. White's own email messages contradict his claim.

Besides, he's ignoring an obvious question: Why didn't his staff see from the get-go that New Living Word was a poor candidate for vouchers?

The lack of judgment is breathtaking, but the bigger problem is that Mr. White's office has yet to come up with standards for the program.

That is unfathomable. When lawmakers agreed to expand the voucher program in the spring, they ordered the Department of Education to come up with an accountability system for it. Mr. White and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education owe it to students and to the public to put strong financial and academic rules in place.

And they need to do so immediately, since the school year will be starting in August.