“Schools with higher proportions of voucher students should be subject to greater accountability.” Robert Travis Scott , president, Public Affairs Research Council
The state needs clear rules for private and parochial schools that fail to offer quality education for voucher students, the president of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana said Tuesday.
PAR President Robert Travis Scott made the comments in a letter to state Superintendent of Education John White, who is devising accountability rules for voucher students and schools they attend.
PAR calls itself an independent governmental research group.
Also on Tuesday, 19th Judicial District Court Judge Tim Kelley, of Baton Rouge, set an Oct. 15 date for arguments in a lawsuit by teacher unions and local school boards challenging the constitutionality of the statewide voucher program.
In his letter, Scott urged White to allow the schools independence “but provide ways to determine if they are failing the students and to phase them out of the voucher program if they cannot improve.”
Scott said how voucher students fare on state standardized tests, and their progress over time, is one good measure of a school’s performance. Student retention and progress toward high school graduation also are solid indicators of whether schools are succeeding, he said.
“Schools with higher proportions of voucher students should be subject to greater accountability,” Scott wrote.
The issue stems from a bill pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, and approved by the Legislature in April, that will expand Louisiana’s voucher program statewide.
Students who attended public schools rated C, D or F by the state, and who meet family income rules, can apply for state-funded vouchers to attend private and parochial schools.
More than 10,000 students have applied for the aid.
Under the law, White has wide authority to spell out the rules.
However, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education plans to meet Tuesday to discuss the issue.
The rules are supposed to be in place by Aug. 1.
Scott said the state should consider what happens when a voucher student does poorly on a state-mandated test or fails to perform at grade level.
“At a minimum, the nonpublic schools should have in place a clear plan for remediation and should provide the information to prospective parents of scholarship students,” he said.
In the constitutional court challenge, attorneys for two statewide teacher unions and dozens of local school boards say the voucher program that will use tax dollars to send children to private schools and other new education funding plans are unconstitutional.
They argue it’s improper to pay for the programs through the public school funding formula, and they claim lawmakers didn’t follow the process for passing laws.
White defends the constitutionality of the programs and the process for passing them into law.