Tuesday, June 5, 2012

News chain reveals voucher scheme

The Gannett chain of Louisiana newspapers has embarked on an ambitious and timely investigation into Gov. Bobby Jindal's "education reform" efforts, and has already uncovered some surprising and unsettling information.

First out of the box was Monroe News-Star reporter Barbara Leader's story about a school in Ruston that is scheduled to accept 315 voucher students even though the school does not have buildings, teachers, computers or other equipment to handle that many students.

During legislative debate on the state Minimum Foundation Program, which will fund the voucher scheme, the Ruston school became a symbol for what was wrong with the governor's plan.

Leader followed up with a report on Superintendent of Education John White's testy confrontation with a Senate committee, in which "he said the approvals were preliminary and the department will now begin its 'due diligence' process to ascertain if schools involved in the program could accommodate the number of students they said they would accept."

 But the school in question was already on the state's list of schools approved for vouchers.

Following Leader's report on the Ruston school, Alexandria Daily Town Talk reporter Jeff Matthews filed this story about about the comparatively few voucher slots available in North and Central Louisiana - most voucher schools are clustered in the southeast part of the state.

An interesting synergy erupted when reporters from two other members of the Gannett chain in Louisiana - the Shreveport Times and Lafayette Daily Advertiser - joined in the effort to understand the implications of the governor's agenda.

In this video, Leader is joined by Mary Wood and Icess Fernandez of The Times and Nicholas Persac of the Advertiser, and they discuss their series of articles called "Follow the money to Louisiana education reforms."

Woods' first article was published on May 27. The second article in the series, published June 2, documents the role played by the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in shaping the Jindal agenda.

The story reveals that the program our governor claims as his own is really part of a scheme being played out in states across the nation. The goal is to privatize public education and divert billions of dollars into the pockets of venture capitalists masquerading as educators.

We're looking forward to coming installments of the Gannett series, which is sure to win some very prestigious journalism awards.

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