Sunday, October 21, 2012

Team Jindal's artful dodge on voucher funding

Apparently stung by a series of public meetings in St. Tammany Parish, during which school board members laid out the damage that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education agenda is causing to public schools, the governor “launched an offensive last week to say local tax dollars are not actually being used to help pay for some students to go to private schools,” according to Advocate columnist Mark Ballard.

The governor’s attorney told Ballard that “No local funds, not one dime of property ad valorem taxes or of property taxes or of any millages, any taxes, can be traced” to a student attending a private or religious school because of Jindal’s voucher scheme.

That artfully worded dodge conceals the fact that the state funds the vouchers in part by holding back money that would otherwise be sent to local school systems. As Ballard writes, “The state writes a check to the private schools and discounts local school districts the same amount.”

That amount includes money approved by local taxpayers for teacher salaries, school construction or other local education needs.

Writes Ballard, “In an analysis written after Act 2, which authorizes the voucher program, had been passed by both chambers, the Legislative Fiscal Office stated: ‘Local school districts will be responsible for a portion of the cost of the Student Scholarship Program.’”

In St. Tammany, school board members report that Jindal’s voucher scheme is costing one of the state’s premier school systems $2.1 million, despite promises from lawmakers that the district would be unscathed by the voucher program.

Statewide, according to Ballard’s column, the voucher program will cost a total of about $25 million. Of that, the state will pay about $12 million, and local taxpayers will pony up about $13 million.

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