Accountability Opinion

Lessons Gleaned From the Louisiana School Voucher Ruling

By Learning First Alliance — December 11, 2012 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By C. Ed Massey, President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and Member of the Boone County (KY) Schools Board of Education

A Louisiana circuit court judge recently ruled that the diversion of public tax dollars dedicated for public education to private school vouchers is unconstitutional. While this particular battle is far from over — Gov. Bobby Jindal and State Superintendent John White have vowed to appeal — this decision is a major victory for all school boards and public education advocates across the United States.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) supported our state affiliate, the Louisiana School Boards Association, because we saw the case as a direct threat to public education. The pro-school choice advocates were flooded with outside money and have put forth a sophisticated public relations operation. The facts of the case are complex — another issue brought up in the court case was whether the legislature had the ability to appropriately vet the proposal before it was pushed through to a vote in the wee hours.

This legislation effectively created a two-tiered school system for Louisiana’s neediest students and would have cost the state’s public schools in excess of $25 million — close to $12 million from the state share of the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) and, more importantly, about $13 million from local school districts’ share of the MFP. This year, the voucher law is allowing nearly 5,000 students who formerly attended public schools rated C, D or F, and possibly some students who had never attended public schools, to enroll in private and parochial schools at the state’s expense. Many of these are religious based and some teach extremist religious philosophies. Under the plan, a school that enrolled less than 40 students from the voucher program would have virtually no accountability for their learning, and all schools would be subject to only minimal financial accounting standards.

I traveled to Baton Rouge to hand-deliver a letter of support from NSBA and attended the trial. While we appreciate the sincerity of some of the parents who are seeking other educational opportunities, we as school boards must focus on providing the best public education possible to all children. Private and parochial schools can, simply put, pick and choose the students they want to attend. They do not have to hire certified teachers or administrators, and they are under no obligation to provide a sound, research-based curriculum. And we know from other cities’ experiments that vouchers leave behind many disadvantaged students, particularly students with disabilities, because private schools may not accept them or do not offer the services they need.

We have a moral and legal duty to provide a free and appropriate education to all children. To do so requires resources. School board members know what works, including early education and school readiness, high standards in core subjects, a focus on 21st century skills and college readiness, a strong system of interventions for students who are falling behind, parents and communities who are engaged in their local schools, and highly qualified staff. And we know that many of our schools need major changes. But if we allow the federal or state governments to divert funds away from public education we will not be able to fulfill that duty.

Louisiana already has a school choice system that operates through community public schools and charter schools. Federal and state laws hold these schools accountable through annual tests in core subjects for students in grades three through eighth grades and in core subjects in high school. These test scores help assign school performance scores, district performance scores, letter grades to individual schools, and letter grades to school districts.

This first-round victory should be pronounced and celebrated. Also, school officials in other states should take notice that this fight is far from over. NSBA will continue to support our colleagues at LSBA, and we all must learn from the good work of Louisiana and continue to fight against the diversion of public funds away from public schools.

Views expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the endorsement of the Learning First Alliance or any of its members.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Transforming Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Accountability Did Washington D.C.'s Education Overhaul Help Black Children? This Study Says Yes
Researchers said the district's "market-based" reforms accelerated achievement versus other districts and states.
5 min read
Accountability Opinion What Next-Gen Accountability Can Learn From No Child Left Behind
As we ponder what's next for accountability and assessment, we’d benefit from checking the rearview mirror more attentively and more often.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Accountability Opinion Let’s Make Transparency the Pandemic’s Educational Legacy
Transparency can strengthen school communities, allow parents to see what’s happening, and provide students more of the support they need.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Accountability The Feds Offered Waivers on ESSA Accountability. Here's Where States Stand on Getting Them
While they get less attention than testing waivers, flexibility related to low-performing schools is an important federal and state issue.
5 min read
Image of a student taking a test with a mask on.
Rich Vintage/E+