Louisiana Public Schools Went Private—But Something Is a Little Weird
The Continuing Dispute Despite a Court Order on April 7, 2014
The main disagreement that continues between the Department of Justice and Bobby Jindal and his administration is over whether or not Jindal’s pet program, to move all public school students into private schools, interferes with the court order issued in 1956, and again in 1960 (because it was ignored the first time), to desegregate all public schools in Louisiana.
The Department of Justice is concerned that all students of African American descent, or possibly all students of color ,will be the ones that are issued vouchers to go to private schools, thus effectively segregating students of color from white students in the Louisiana public school system all over again.
As we all know, there are often many roads leading to a particular destination. Some may not seem to go to that particular destination on the surface, but ultimately, that is where they end up.
The most recent court order on April 7, 2014 by U.S. District Judge Ivan R. Lemelle in New Orleans requires Louisiana to provide data about the racial background of students enrolling in the voucher program to the Department of Justice. That is so the DOJ can determine if the court order of 1960 ordering desegregation is being honored.
‘"We welcome the court's order as it rejects the state's bid to resist providing even the most basic information about how Louisiana's voucher program will affect school desegregation efforts," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement on Tuesday night [April 8, 2014],”’ (Edweek.org).
Jindal and his administration, however, continue to attempt to thwart the Department of Justice in their oversight efforts, not wanting the federal government to be looking over Louisiana’s shoulder to make sure they are administering their voucher program fairly and with the desegregation order in mind. If Louisiana did not already have a record of segregation the DOJ would not be insisting on the documentation.
The Foundation for Excellence in Education reports, “Two studies have been done to examine the issue [segregation resulting from the school voucher program]. The first, by a researcher at Boston University, found that the program actually improved diversity in 16 of the 34 districts in question, with little to no impact on the remaining districts. The other, conducted by doctoral fellows at the University of Arkansas, found that “the overwhelming majority (83 percent)” of transfer students “have positive impacts on the racial integration of the student’s sending school.”
The founder and chairman of the board of directors for Foundation for Excellence in Education is Jeb Bush.
Picketing for School Choice
What Are Most Private Schools In Louisiana Reportedly Teaching Students?
Mother Jones reports that many of the private schools participating in the Louisiana voucher program are Christian Schools (119 or so of them). Apparently these private Christian schools use the A Beka Book curriculum, or the Bob Jones University Press textbooks in their schools.
Among other things, the curriculums mentioned teach that dinosaurs and humans were on the earth at the same time (Bob Jones University Life Science). There is in fact no proof of this.
Also in Bob Jones University Life Science, 3rd edition: Dragons were real, fire breathing, smoke, and all.
Now this next one that is included in A Beka Book, the section titled, “Land That I love,” is to my thinking offensive to say the least. The article itself is titled: God used the Trail of Tears to bring many Indians to Christ.
As a Christian myself, I find this offensive, because it blames God instead of the people who orchestrated this horrific event, for the horrible things white people did to the Cherokees, Seminoles, Chickasaws, and Creek Nation -- native Americans.
Just the title of this piece makes it clear that the writer has no revulsion for the egregious acts that were forced onto civilized decent people because white people wanted to steal their land. This is what children are being taught in these schools. Is it any wonder that racism is alive and well when children are taught to rationalize such horrific treatment of a people for the purpose of stealing their land?
Another egregious untruth included in the Bob Jones University Press textbook titled United States History for Christian Schools, 2nd edition: "A few slave holders were undeniably cruel. Examples of slaves beaten to death were not common, neither were they unknown. The majority of slave holders treated their slaves well."
What exactly does the author mean when s/he says the majority of slave owners treated their slaves well? That they used what was at the time considered good business English when they put these people on the auction block? What behavior of slave owners in conjunction with the treatment of their slaves could possibly be described as “well?” No matter what else these slave owners did or did not do, they did buy and sell people and they did control every minute of those people’s time on this planet. What is “well” about that?
Discovering that we are teaching children that slavery was for the most part okey-dokey is repugnant to this writer. If this is what Christian education is teaching children, no wonder the atheist community is growing by leaps and bounds!
It gets worse. Also from the same textbook titled United States History for Christian Schools, 3rd edition, and again from Bob Jones University, “[The Ku Klux] Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross. Klan targets were bootleggers, wife-beaters, and immoral movies. In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians.”
It seems we have all been misinformed. It turns out that the KKK is a benevolent organization that only does good. We should all aspire to organize such a Godly fraternity in our communities. Is it any wonder that racism lives when children are basically being taught racism in school? Who needs a skin head for a parent when the teachers and schools are teaching such outrageous things, in the name of God no less?
A Beka Book, United States History: Heritage of Freedom, 2nd edition, "Perhaps the best known work of propaganda to come from the Depression was John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath…Other forms of propaganda included rumors of mortgage foreclosures, mass evictions, and hunger riots and exaggerated statistics representing the number of unemployed and homeless people in America."
How can anyone in good conscious teach children such drivel? How can anyone even think such things as the quotes I have presented here so far?
All the outrages of these two systems, A Beka Book and Bob Jones University, are not included here. I have only begun to scratch the surface. I recommend you follow the source to Mother Jones below and research further for yourself, especially if you have school age children you are thinking of putting in a Christian school, or if you are home schooling. A Beka Book and Bob Jones curriculums are very popular with some home schoolers.
In any case, the curriculums discussed here are prevalent in most of the Christian schools licensed to accept school vouchers in Louisiana. I have no problem teaching creationism or intelligent design (which is what I believe) along with evolution. I believe these texts described above go far beyond that and what they pass off as teaching morals leaves more than a great deal to be desired.
Examples of a Christian Textbook
Another Christian Textbook Example
The Latest on the Louisiana Voucher Program as of May 2013
Fox News and the Washington Post report that the Louisiana State Supreme Court ruled on May 7, 2013 in a 6-1 decision that the funding method for Governor Bobby Jindal’s pet project, the private school tuition voucher program, is unconstitutional.
The Louisiana Association of Educators is demanding that Jindal get all the money back that was paid out (illegally) to private and religious schools this past school year. The Association is threatening a lawsuit if Jindal does not comply with their terms.
As previously stated, the Louisiana Constitution forbids the use of money earmarked for public school to be used to pay tuition to private schools. Jindal is determined to keep the voucher program going.
While no decision has yet been made as to how they will continue to pay for the vouchers it is likely that the state legislature will have to get involved and create new legislation to remedy the current law that does not allow public education funds to be used for the voucher program. Jindal suggested that for now the money would come out of the state’s general budget instead of the education budget.
About 5,000 students received vouchers last school year and 8,000 are expected to receive vouchers this coming school year in Louisiana. Many parents receiving vouchers are choosing parochial schools for their children that teach creationism instead of evolution.
The reason so many parents are choosing religious schools for their children is not for the reason you might think. It is because those are the only schools that have openings for voucher students. So what has really been solved if students are stuck going to the only schools that have space left? How is that better than the public school they were attending before?
Meanwhile, the Indiana’s State Supreme Court has recently ruled that their voucher program is constitutional and it is expected to continue even though the vouchers are being paid for by tax dollars and end up being used to pay tuition in parochial schools. The judges in the majority said the money is being given to parents to make their own choices and so it is not the government that is directly paying the tuition in the religious schools, therefore they see no issue with the division of church and state.
Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, vows to fight for his signature program -- school vouchers
State Judge Tim Kelley ruled on November 30, 2012, that Louisiana's “sweeping” school voucher program could not use funds set aside for public education to pay private-school tuition for thousands of low- and middle-income children.
Judge Kelley did not issue an immediate injunction to stop the voucher program so that the 5,000 students, at the cost of approximately 25 million dollars, who are already utilizing the program will be able to continue at least until any appeals are resolved.
However it is unlikely that more vouchers will be issued under the current circumstances. Judge Kelley ruled the voucher system was unconstitutional, and the program is facing even more challenges.
According to Stephanie Simon writing for Reuters, “. . . a federal judge in New Orleans ruled that the program had the potential to disrupt the region's court-ordered efforts to desegregate public schools.” Since that ruling in Tangipahoa Parish, at least 30 additional school districts in Louisiana say they will bring similar court challenges before federal courts.
Simon writes: “In a statement, Jindal didn't tip his hand about his tactics but did issue a forceful vow to defend his signature program.”
Campbell Robertson writing for the New York Times reports: “It [the funding issue] is certainly not as potentially problematic for the program as a decision that vouchers violate a standing court order on desegregation, as a federal judge ruled last week in regard to such an order in one Louisiana parish.”
So what it boils down to for the moment is that supporters of the voucher program will have a tougher time defending against the desegregation order than they will have of finding a way to fund the program that will satisfy state law. Either way, it will be a while before this issue is resolved and may never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. I will keep you posted on future rulings and events on this issue.
What States In Addition to Louisiana Already Have Voucher Programs In Place or Are Trying to Create Them?
According to the Wall Street Journal, 19 states and Washington D.C. already have voucher systems or “scholarship programs” in place to assist underprivileged and special needs students who wish to attend private schools to do so. Some of those states include Wisconsin, Colorado, Mississippi, Arizona, Ohio, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Alabama.
Several states have either expanded or created voucher systems in the last few months, including Indiana, Virginia, and Florida. Texas recently attempted passage of a school voucher system but it failed. There will be a next time.
To learn what your state is doing in regard to vouchers for public school students, Google your state and school vouchers – example: Texas School Voucher System, or Utah School Voucher system.
The Beginning of the End of Public School in Louisiana?
Starting this school year in August/September 2012, the first steps will be taken to make the public school system in Louisiana a private school system. The ultimate goal is to do away with the public school system and replace it entirely with a private system -- and not exactly like the private school system we currently have in place.
In fact, from what it looks like right now, it would be more accurate to call the future Louisiana school system a private educational system, rather than a school system, since in some cases it will not resemble what most people presently think of as “school.”
Starting at the beginning of this coming school year, low income or poor children, along with middle class children, will receive vouchers that will pay the total cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools in Louisiana. Bible based schools will be included.
Tens of millions of tax dollars will be taken out of the Louisiana public school system. It will go instead to private schools, business owners, industry trade groups, churches, online schools, tutors, and possibly other private sector education vendors.
"We are changing the way we deliver education," said Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican who muscled the plan through the legislature this spring over fierce objections from Democrats and teachers unions. "We are letting parents decide what's best for their children, not government," (The New Media Journal).
What Will Be The Next Step In Dissolving the Public School System In Louisiana?
In the fall of 2013, children of any income level will be able to receive what are termed “mini-vouchers.” The mini-vouchers can be used to pay a wide spectrum of education vendors for apprenticeships, classes, or instruction that is not generally available in public schools. As previously stated, these vendors could include industry trade groups, online schools, businesses, or tutors, etc.
Since private schools are not required to accept students they do not want, and since private schools are often more limited in seats available, they will first determine which students they are willing to accept. The names of those students will be put in a lottery where only a certain number of desirable students will be chosen.
Less prestigious religious schools have more seats available and people who may not have wanted to send their children to parochial schools may have no choice when public schools are no longer an option.
Disadvantages Of Dissolving the Public School System
So far, the list of religious schools willing to accept large numbers of students have a litany of shortages. For example, some religious schools use textbooks “warning that liberals threaten global prosperity.”
The Upperroom Bible Church Academy in New Orleans has all classrooms with no windows, and there is no playground. It is hoping to receive as many as 214 vouchers valued at 1.8 million dollars.
New Living Word (school) in Ruston Louisiana has 314 seats available. It has no library and students spend most of the day watching television. Instructions are on DVD, and even subjects like chemistry and English composition include Bible verses.
Bible based instruction is fine so long as you are a Christian in agreement with the school’s translation of the Bible, but if you are not and that is the only school that will accept your child, then what?
"Because it's private, it's considered to be inherently better," said Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. "From a consumer perspective, it's buyer beware,” (Huffington Post, June 1, 2012).
Possible Advantages Of the Voucher System
John White, Louisiana Superintendent of Education, pointed out, “ . . . many kids applying for vouchers are now enrolled in dismal public schools where two-thirds of the students can't read or do math at grade level and half will drop out before they graduate high school,” (Huffington Post, June 1, 2012).
It is hoped that by turning education over to the private sector where competition can be stiff, the education that is delivered to every child will be greatly improved.
Is This Just A Way Of Eventually Doing Away With a Tax Supported Education System All Together?
It seems to me that for many people our education system is failing more and more often. I have been exposed to people of all ages, all sexes, and from all walks of life, who cannot read, or cannot read reasonably well. People who cannot do simple math without a calculator. People who know little or nothing about the geography or history of this country, much less any other. People of all colors and ethnicities born and reared in this country who cannot speak or write proper English. Definitely something needs to be done to improve our educational system.
My concern is that once the voucher system is in place for a while, it too will be phased out, leaving people of all socioeconomic levels with the responsibility of educating their own children. Many, if not all of the poor will be unable to do so. Many middleclass parents may not be able to do so. The public school system, bad as it is, trumps no education system at all.
Everyone who is familiar with my hubs knows that I home schooled my daughter (now grown up) from start to finish, all the way through high school. While I believe home school is the best form of education, I realize that everyone is not capable of educating their own children, for a variety of reasons.
Many children are falling through the cracks now, so to speak, but I fear the situation will become even worse if education is one day not available to some children because they are poor, through no fault of their own.
Mother Jones magazine online
The Foundation for Excellence in Education
Washington Examiner on Eric Holder opposition to school vouchers
Louisiana desegregation order
Questions & Answers
© 2012 C E Clark