LOUISIANA – Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is embarking on a bold experiment… beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, thousands of poor and middle-class students will have the opportunity to attend a school of their choice, courtesy of the implementation of a school voucher program that was passed this spring in Louisiana over the objections of teachers’ unions and Democrat protests.
This voucher program will distribute state educational funds to those schools children are attending, which will mean that many poorly performing schools will either have to improve their quality of education or face declining funds and student attendance.
“We are changing the way we deliver education,” said the governor. “We are letting parents decide what’s best for their children, not government.”
Ever since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, there has been some type of educational system in the United States. It wasn’t until the last century or so, however, that bureaucrats began their social experiments in state education. In the 70s, under the Carter administration, the Department of Education was established at the federal level, which consolidated several minor agencies scattered throughout the federal government and put Washington bureaucrats squarely in the middle of the logistics and administration of the American educational system.
Of all the plans put forth over the past years to open the public school system to competition, Louisiana’s voucher program is the most aggressive thus far. Private and public schools, secular and religious-based, are included in the program. And beginning next year, mini-vouchers will be given to pay vendors for classes and apprenticeships that are not normally offered through the public school system. These will include online schools and tutors, as well as business and industry trade groups.
The teachers union is considering a lawsuit against the state’s voucher program, claiming that it is diverting funds from public schools to private programs that are not as stringently overseen and have questionable value. However, Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education, John White, says that state officials have visited all 120 schools included in the state’s voucher program and have approved their curricula, including specific books used in these programs.
White said that he will leave it to parents to judge the quality of the schools their children attend and leave it to the principles to make sure that their schools cover all subjects the children need.
Of the 700,000 students in Louisiana, over half are eligible for the state voucher program. While there are not enough slots in the private school system to take on such an influx, state officials expect that to change.
Louisiana is showing itself ahead of the curve with this bold move. It’s a novel concept in today’s world—that parents and local educators are intelligent enough to make these decisions about their children’s education without the strong arm of government overseeing them down to the minutest detail.
If other states don’t want to be left behind in Louisiana’s educational reform dust, they would do well to consider doing the same.