Bill would allow auditor to track voucher schools

Lawmakers are considering a proposal that would give the legislative auditor greater ability to track state tax dollars paying for students to go to private schools through the statewide voucher program.

Under Senate Bill 460 by state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, the private schools would have to keep the dollars either in a separate account or use an accounting procedure that allows the auditor’s office to track the receipt and spending of the money.

The voucher program is slated to receive $46 million in next year’s budget.

Richard Bordelon, a lawyer representing the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Catholic schools participating in the voucher program don’t have a way to separate out the spending. He said the dollars are used in the schools’ general operating budget to pay for salaries, utilities and regular expenses.

“There needs to be a responsible way for the taxpayer to know ... or don’t take the money,” Adley said.

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said outside auditors who reviewed 118 voucher schools couldn’t track how public dollars were spent at nearly all the schools or determine compliance with a requirement that voucher money be spent on educational purposes.

The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee approved Adley’s bill without objection Tuesday, sending it to the full Senate for debate.