Monday, September 17, 2012

John White doubles down on vouchers

Evidence mounts that Superintendent of Education John White and his liege, Gov. Bobby Jindal, are bent on minimizing public education and advancing the cause of private, religious and for-profit schools.

Their preference is on display in this press release, which crows about how successfully the governor's voucher scheme has started down its path to supplant traditional public schools.

Along with its declaration of favor for privatized education, White's press release takes an eye-poke at St. Tammany, a parish still stinging from Gov. Jindal's decision to close Southeast Louisiana Hospital. What is it about the state's most reliably Republican district that urges the governor to treat it so shabbily?

And to those who say there is no slap at St. Tammany in the press release: Of course there is. In this case, the worst insult is in the praise withheld. They knew what they were doing.

Back to the press release. Perhaps the most interesting part is where White drags up a discredited piece of "research" which he uses to bolster a claim that "enrollment in college increased 24 percent for African-American students who received a scholarship to attend a private school."

Even the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, a strong editorial supporter of the Jindal agenda, calls bullhockey on that one. Reporter David Jacobs writes that the data cited by White "actually does not support the authors' conclusions."

Writes Jacobs: "The review by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison argues the evidence shows 'school vouchers did not improve college enrollment rates among all students or even among a selected subgroup.' In fact, the Brookings/Harvard report 'convincingly demonstrates that in New York City a private voucher program failed to increase the college enrollment rates of students from low-income families,' the critique says.

There's a reason for White's heavy lean on the bogus report. News about the voucher schools has been almost universally bad for White and Jindal. First came the report from New Orleans that public schools were outperforming voucher schools in Jindal's initial foray into privatization. Then came stories about the state's woefully inadequate vetting of proposed voucher schools. Not to mention the pro-KKK and creationism curricula favored by some of the voucher academies.

As White and Jindal double down on vouchers, they will have to deal with mounting evidence that their scheme is not only unconstitutional (court date rapidly approaching), but that it is educationally unsound and intellectually bankrupt. That means we can expect more glowing - and inaccurate - press releases in the future.

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