Tuesday, August 14, 2012

True Blood: A Louisiana story

With all the attention focused on Gov. Jindal’s voucher scheme, one might think the diversion of public education funds to private and religious schools is the most insidious attack imaginable on our schools.

One would be wrong. If anything, the vouchers are a diversion from an even greater threat to public schools and the profession of teaching. Like vouchers, that threat was delivered in Act 2 of 2012, one of the governor’s signature education initiatives.

The act was so big, so bloated with various unrelated schemes, and was rushed through the system with so little scrutiny, that most people didn’t pay much attention to what is now called the Louisiana Course Choice program or LCC.

But on Tuesday morning, a BESE committee approved a $675,000 “professional service” expenditure that will eventually bleed education funds like a vampire on an artery.

The money will purchase an online course registration system for the LCC. It is, to stretch a metaphor, the invitation that a vampire must receive before it is allowed into your house. Once inside, however, the sucking commences without mercy.

As described in the BESE proposal, “LCC is a first-of-its-kind program that will allow K-12 students in Louisiana to take a wide variety of course offerings from ‘non-traditional’ course providers – post-secondary academic institutions, online providers, businesses and business associations and educational entrepreneurs…”

And just who might these non-traditional course providers be? Numerous warnings have been posted, but one of the most recent is this Reuters article by Stephanie Simon.

Speaking to a group of investors, she writes, an education consultant explained how the groundwork has already been laid for the vampires to pounce on public education’s throbbing veins:

“Think about the upcoming rollout of new national academic standards for public schools, he urged the crowd. If they're as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad, their students testing way behind in reading and math. They'll want help, quick. And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software and student assessments will be right there to provide it.”

Acrosss the United States, some $500 billion a year is spent on public education. In Louisiana, our Minimum Foundation Program budget is $3.41 billion. The vampires want it.

Simon writes that investors believe “a golden moment has arrived,” and that “investors are pouring private equity and venture capital into scores of companies that aim to profit by taking over broad swaths of public education.”

And no place in the United States has made it easier for the vampires than Louisiana, with its “first-of-a-kind” program that offers up our children on an altar of blood and money.

Simon quotes a private equity investor: "Education is behind healthcare and other sectors that have utilized outsourcing to become more efficient."

The question, one of the vampires asks, is "How do we use technology so that we require fewer highly qualified teachers?"

Louisiana is about to find out.

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