Private Schools in Louisiana Voucher Program Facing Tougher Guidelines

Marion Herbert's picture
Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Private schools participating in Louisiana's new voucher program for low-income students will have to clear roughly the same academic bar that public schools do in order to keep accepting taxpayer dollars, according to a new accountability plan proposed by the state's top education official.

State Superintendent John White will ask the state board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, to incorporate his plan into formal board policy at a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

The plan, posted online Monday morning, will come as a relief to groups lobbying for stricter accountability, worried that private schools will be able to draw on state coffers without showing they can do a better job of educating disadvantaged students than their public counterparts.

The voucher program, one component of a broader education overhaul led by Gov. Bobby Jindal this spring, is open to any student from a low-income family slated to attend a public school rated C or below. It's based on a pilot program that's been operating in New Orleans since 2008without requiring schools involved to hit any particular academic benchmarks.  

Beginning this coming school year, if White's plan is put in place, private schools accepting an average of more than 10 voucher students per grade, or a total of 40 assigned to grades in which students take standardized exams, will have to earn a performance score of at least 50 in order to keep taking additional students in subsequent years. The scores, derived from exam results and other factors, will be based on the new 150-point scale used for grading public schools in Louisiana, which is slated to replace a more complicated 200-point system this year. Public schools that score below a 50 will be labeled "failing" and face being taken over by the state if they can't improve results.


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