Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What economic crisis? Leges want more for vouchers

In spite of the fact that Louisiana faces billions of dollars in looming budget cuts, some lawmakers want to expand a New Orleans voucher scheme that didn't even spend all the money appropriated for this year.

As Associated Press reporter Kevin McGill writes here, Senator Ann Duplessis wants more money for Gov. Bobby Jindal's pet project. Voucher supporters say they want more "choices" for New Orleans parents, even though the state has already spent untold millions to provide a vast array of choices through charter schools, recovery district schools and traditional public schools in the city.

As the governor prepares his budget for the coming fiscal year, big cuts are expected in higher education, health care and myriad other public services. But we are expected to cough up even more to pay for tuition at private and religious schools.

Last year, lawmakers were arm-twisted into appropriating $10 million so that some 1,500 students could get up to $7,138 worth of tuition vouchers. Only about 640 of the 1,300 students who applied for the money wound up using the vouchers, and just a little over one-third of the money was spent.

And even though money was left on the voucher table this year, the appropriation wasn't touched when Jindal cut other state budgets by over $340 million at mid-year.

Needless to say, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers will fight the expenditure of scarce education funds on a program that benefits very few children just to satisfy an ideological bias against public education.

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