Everyone knows that education in America is a national disgrace. Here in Louisiana it’s even worse. Until Bobby Jindal became Governor, the politicians who were in charge, whether they were Democrats or Republicans were happy to allow the ineptitude of the schools here to remain decrepit. The educators in charge of public schools were happy just to take a paycheck without having to be bothered with actually teaching kids. The people in charge of the private schools were happy to maintain the status quo; if public schools were better at teaching kids, then private schools would have to improve too, and that would cost them money. But Jindal decided to attack this problem this year.
As an example of just how bad the schools in this state are, after Katrina, a number of families migrated to Houston. The Texas city tried to integrate the New Orleans kids into their existing schools but found that virtually all of them were achieving between 2 and 5 grade levels below Houston kids at the same grades. So what Houston did was set up new schools for just New Orleans students using the same incompetent teachers who taught them in the Big Easy. I guess, when they eventually grow up, they can move back home with no skills to seek legitimate jobs.
Well, Bobby Jindal is changing this landscape. He has gotten the state legislature to pass a law that provides vouchers to middle class and poor parents that, this year, will cover tuition at private schools throughout the Pelican State. Next year, the program will be expanded so that all parents will be eligible for reimbursement, and the program will be expanded to cover any training not offered by public schools. Vendors can include individuals, trade groups, firms, online schools, or anything else that the parents wish. Any time a parent chooses an alternative, funding to the local school district would be reduced. According to Jindal, “We are letting parents decide what’s best for their children, not government.”
Parents have begun applying for vouchers at state-approved schools. Each school gets to determine how many voucher students it will accept; all will be chosen by a lottery. For example, at the private school near where I live, it is accepting four voucher students, both for kindergarten, although its school extends to high school. Other less prestigious schools are accepting many more students. Most of these are religious based, and have had trouble competing in recent years. A school in Ruston, New Living Word Academy, is open to 314 vouchers. This school has become ‘famous’ in the state for its highly skilled athletic programs; however, it does not have a library, which may impede students ability to read or write, if the parents wish their children to learn these skills as well as dribbling a basketball.