State Journal: In search of a mission; Choice targets
New bureaucracies rarely spring up in times of fiscal crisis, such as the one Louisiana finds itself in these days. But the legislature voted this year to create a new entity in the state education department--the bureau of non-public education.
The problem facing department officials is that lawmakers failed to spell out exactly what the new office should do.
In the course of approving some $16 million for non-public schools, the legislature simply wrote in a line-item setting aside $198,782 for the new bureau, but not giving any guidance on its purpose.
That lack of mission led one department official to suggest to a local newspaper that the office would lobby for more public money for non-public schools--an idea that drew criticism and, sources said, embarrassed other department officials.
"I don't think that is a correct description of what the bureau would be doing," said Sue Wells, an assistant to Superintendent of Education Wilmer S. Cody.
Currently, funds for non-public schools come from the continued suspension of a $25-per-child credit the state once allowed on income-tax returns for parents of all students.
Although the details of the new bureau are still being hammered out, Ms. Wells said, the general purpose will be to oversee the distribution of funds to non-public schools.
Robert L. Maddox, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, described the creation of the bureau as "one of the most ludicrous legislative enterprises we've ever run into--especially since public schools there are starving to death."
Viewing Kentucky as "ripe" for change since the state's supreme court ordered a redesign of the school system, the National Council for Better Education has targeted the state for a school-choice campaign.
John Campbell, executive director of the n.c.b.e., said the group--which has been active in promoting choice nationally--will take a "three-prong" approach to advocating the idea in the state.
The first step will be working "unofficially" with a new group, the Kentucky Friends for Freedom and Choice in Education, he said.
Secondly, the group will develop model legislation to present to the task force working on the redesign.
Finally, ncbe will conduct a media blitz on radio and television and in the print media to spread the idea.
Mr. Campbell also said Louisiana and Delaware were "ripe" for a school-choice movement.--rrw