Teachers’ union criticizes Hosanna Christian Academy

Officials of a teachers’ union Tuesday charged that Hosanna Christian Academy in Baton Rouge, which is one of Louisiana’s top recipients of state-funded vouchers, unfairly asks prospective employees whether they engage in homosexuality, sex outside of marriage and detailed questions about their faith.

The questions are out of bounds because the school collected $1.4 million in state aid for voucher students during the 2012-13 school year, Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, said in an interview.

Josh LeSage, headmaster at the school, said later that Hosanna is well within its legal rights in what questions it asks job applicants. “We are not breaking any laws,” LeSage said in an interview.

Monaghan said he will ask the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which sets rules on voucher operations, to investigate hiring practices at Hosanna and other, mostly private schools where voucher students are enrolled.

“This is pretty fundamentally religious,” he said of Hosanna’s questionnaire.

Vouchers are state aid that allows students in public schools rated C, D and F to attend private schools with tuition and some fees paid by the state.

Students also have to meet income requirements to qualify for the assistance.

Backers say the aid offers students a way out of troubled public schools. Critics, including Monaghan’s group, say that vouchers are a needless drain on scarce state dollars for public schools.

The state is spending $44.6 million on the program in the current school year, according to a report issued on Monday by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.

About 6,700 students get the aid now.

The review said that, during the 2012-13 school year, Hosanna collected $1.4 million for 284 voucher students, one of the tops in the state.

The school’s enrollment this year is about 675, with roughly 460 of those students getting vouchers.

State rules that govern hiring practices of schools that get state voucher dollars, if any, are unclear.

Chas Roemer, president of BESE, was unavailable for comment and his message mailbox was full.

Monaghan said the issue dovetails with criticism by Purpera that the state Department of Education is short on criteria to make sure schools that accept the students are academically prepared to handle them.

In a prepared statement Monaghan said that “Public funds should not be sent to any schools that pry into a person’s life” and that those included on the Hosanna form are intrusive.

Hosanna’s application for employment is on its website and tells users that only online applications are accepted.

Questions include:

  • “If unmarried, are you abstaining from sexual activity?
  • “Do you live with a non-relative of the opposite sex?
  • “Do you engage in homosexual activities?”

The form also includes a “statement of faith,” and applicants are directed to sign electronically if the statements reflect their Christian views and to spell out any points of disagreement.

That nine-point list includes:

  • “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, infallible authoritative Word of God. (2 Timothy 3:15, 16).
  • “We believe in baptism by immersion. (Matthew 28:19).
  • “We believe in divine healing through the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. (Isaiah 53:4, Matthew 8:16, 17 James 5:13, 14).

LeSage said the questions are aimed at discerning whether applicants are serious about living their faith and that the school’s ranks of teachers include Roman Catholics, Baptists and Methodists.

“I can understand him going there because he wants to fight against the program,” LeSage said of Monaghan.