5 Ways Louisiana’s New Voucher Program Spells Disaster for Public Education
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Furthermore, the program will necessarily increase inequality by diminishing public school funding even though, “not all students can or will leave,” as Kirshner points out. “Students with special needs cannot leave, because unlike public schools, privates and charters are not obligated to provide special education services. So public schools will be left with the hardest to educate students, yet they will have the same per student budget to work with as is provided to private and charter schools.”
Ultimately, Kirshner believes that all of these factors will result in a system in which “...the gap between the middle class and the poor will increase as the poor are left with less and less educational opportunity. In this way, the agenda of the ultra-wealthy to diminish the middle-class can proceed unimpeded. For we judge our own economic well-being in relative terms. With the floor of the impoverished class sinking down, the middle-class will hardly notice the erosion of its own economic standing.”
No child left behind, indeed.
5. Undermines Teachers: In his town hall video, superintendent John White makes the claim that Louisiana Believes is also about “empowering” teachers. But there is next to no evidence that this is actually true. As more and more students flee the public system, more and more unionized teachers (no longer needed in the new economy of education) will inevitably lose their jobs – possibly tens of thousands of them. In private schools, teachers will not have tenure rights or other protections. Instead, firing will operate according to the rules of private industry in the state; teachers will be fired at-will.
Unless worker “empowerment” in Louisiana now means de-professionalization, lower wages, mass teacher firings and loss of basic tenure rights, it’s hard to imagine how Louisiana’s privatization plan could empower teachers at all. Rather, the plan serves a right-wing agenda that demonizes teachers and fights against their unions as a matter of course. Moreover, it will continue to tie teacher “accountability” in public schools to standardized test scores -- without insisting that private schools and their teachers are beholden to the same measures.
It’s no wonder then that the teachers unions have unilaterally opposed the legislation – and they haven’t stopped fighting against it. Just this week the unions mounted two lawsuits, asking the courts for a temporary injunction to halt ongoing implementation of the program; they are calling for the legislation to be declared unconstitutional on the grounds that the bill was rushed and legislators did not fully understand the implications of what they were voting for.
“The passage of these laws has elevated legal challenges to acts of civic responsibility,” Louisiana Federation of Teachers president Steve Monaghan told The Town Talk. “By cramming so many objectives into just two bills, public comment and debate were stifled. Legislators were given little information about the bills, and appeared intimidated into passing them without adequate debate and oversight.”
Though Governor Jindal and company have already declared victory, in the eyes of teachers and activist groups this battle for Louisiana’s children is far from over.
Kristin Rawls is a freelance writer whose work has also appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, GOOD Magazine, Religion Dispatches, Killing the Buddha, Global Comment and elsewhere online.