Senator Elbert Guillory (R-Opelousas) wrote an opinion piece in the Advertiser praising the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP) providing vouchers to low-income parents. It is filled with heart, but lacks specifics and ignores inconvenient facts.
“The Louisiana Scholarship Program is working to pick up the pieces of Louisiana’s broken educational system,” so the senator claims. One month ago, the Times-Picayune published an article on November 28th with the devastating title “Half of Louisiana’s voucher students at D or F schools in program’s first year, data shows.”
In all fairness, only 22 of the 118 schools got a grade, but to be graded, a school has to have 40 or more voucher students in the school population. Another wrinkle is that 52% of the students are in Kindergarten through second grade and don’t have standardized tests—rightly so—and therefore there is no process to grade those schools. Of the 22 schools, one scored a B, and the rest earned Cs, Ds, or Fs, the exact grade making students eligible for the LSP.
The senator claims that test scores have improved by 20 to 25 percentage points, but does not cite his source. In the future, his statements would be more believable with proof.
He also asserts that the LSP helps low-income parents, but it allows for families with incomes up to two-and-a-half times the poverty level. That works out to families earning $60,000, not exactly what one could normally call low-income families.
He affirms he is fighting tirelessly to reform our system and enact common sense solutions. Common Core Standards, which the Louisiana legislature approved in 2010, were written predominantly by twenty-five people with little classroom or standards-writing experience. How is that common sense?
He avows that “critics and naysayers want to take us back,” but those critics and naysayers are also teachers and parents who have legitimate concerns. The senator’s letter brushes aside their anxieties and negatively associates any critic as some unworthy defender of the status quo.
The one positive piece of information he quotes is that 93% of the program’s parents support the LSP. When those parents discovered that their students were removed from a C, D, or F school to attend a different C, D, or F school, I wonder how many of them were still supportive of the system. That data is unavailable.
The senator states that the LSP is fortifying itself as it expands. That unfortunate remark came out the day after the legislative audit stated that the program does not necessarily ensure a better education for students and that the Department of Education isn’t properly monitoring the program.
It is interesting to note that Senator Guillory, who is now running for Lt. Governor, was one of four votes in the Senate Education Subcommittee that killed the unanimously-passed, 2013 House Bill to delay the punitive effects of the Louisiana COMPASS teacher evaluation system. Those 100+ House members had legitimate concerns too that he nullified with one vote.
Common sense may prevail in Louisiana, but it hasn’t yet.
- Audit: La. school vouchers don’t ensure quality (sfgate.com)
- Many La. voucher students at failing schools (wwltv.com)
- Audit: Poor oversight of Louisiana voucher program (sfgate.com)