Kopplin: State paying $11.6M to schools teaching creationism
Of the roughly 6,600 slots available for publicly funded private school tuition through the state’s new voucher program, 1,350 will be filled at private Christian schools that teach creationism and peg evolution as “false science.”
According to testimony from Baton Rouge’s Zack Kopplin, who spoke against the voucher program Tuesday at a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting, the 1,350 students signing up for creationism classes will cost taxpayers $11.6 million next school year.
Kopplin, an 18-year-old Rice University student best known for his efforts during the last two legislative sessions to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, was one of several people who addressed BESE recently in opposition of the controversial voucher program, but it wasn’t enough to sway the majority of the state’s top school board. In a 9-2 vote Tuesday, BESE approved accountability guidelines set forth by state Education Superintendent John White for private schools participating in the voucher program, benchmarks that are far less stringent than those of public schools:
Unlike in public schools, passing or failing the tests in private schools will not be used to determine whether students advance to the next grade. But it will be used to grade the schools. White says that “allows for a common academic bar when parents make their decisions” on whether to switch from a public to a private school.
Opponents of the new system complained that it doesn’t really have any teeth because White has authority to waive every component, including restrictions on enrollment and curriculum. White disagreed, contending that the system does impose consequences for schools that do not perform academically or do not have appropriate accommodations for operating schools.
Donald Songy, representing the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said that under the new regulations, about 120 schools would receive vouchers, but only about 25 would be tested and only 16 would receive scores because of the numbers White set for testing.
[Louisiana Progress Director Melissa] Flournoy pointed out that a published BESE document says no school could increase its enrollment more than 20 percent and schools couldn’t increase tuition more than 20 percent. White said the regulations allow a 25 percent increase, or 50 students.
But documents released Tuesday show many schools are being allowed to go well beyond those limitations. Most noticeably is the New Living Word Church School near Ruston that more than doubled its enrollment with 165 voucher students.
In fact, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s voucher program has paved the way for at least nine Christian schools across the state to double their enrollment over last year, The Associated Press reports. White attributes those “exceptions” to “extraordinary cases,” such as high demand from parents.
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AUG 21 Tom Aswell is telling us about another "efficiency" contract the state has signed. This one is paying a consultant (i.e. someone with a briefcase from out of town) $140 an hour, plus tens of thousands in air fare. The agency on the receiving end of this tender care? The DMV. Well -- that's working great, then.
AUG 21 This post on The Lens brings us up to date on the ongoing process of populating the levee board that will decide if the so-called Big Oil lawsuit will move forward. Gov. Jindal has done his best to put the kibosh on the suit by removing pro-suit members, but the process of replacing them is not simple, Bob Marshall tells us.
AUG 21 Here's Politico's coverage of Bobby Jindal's loss in the Common Core lawsuit this week. Interestingly, it boils down to dueling quotes from the judge who handed the administration its collective hiney and Kyle Plotkin. There's also commentary here about Jindal's flip-flop on the issue.
AUG 20 Education blogger Mercedes Schneider, as usual, is using her (not insignificant) teaching skills to give us the skinny on the recent court ruling on Common Core. Schneider gets into the details of legal strategy and argument at play here. As usual, it appears that Jindal's lawyers dropped the ball. Hey, at least they're consistent. (Or maybe Jindal didn't really want to win, he just wanted the Tea Party to think he wanted to win?)
AUG 21 Columnist Jim Beam is writing about ISIS in this post. The civilized world has to do something about this group and the atrocities its members are committing, he says. Maybe President Bush "blew it" in Iraq, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do anything more, he says.
AUG 21 Blogger CB Forgotston is continuing his habit of announcing that he won't be running for stuff in this post on the Forward Now blog. He's also poking fun at State Police Commander Mike Edmonson (and his entourage, dubbed "Dork Dynasty" by some Troopers) and the Advocate. Apparently Edmonson isn't happy with people who are keeping this boondogle in the news. Awww.
AUG 21 This post on the NOLA Defender blog talks about some things that New Orleans and Ferguson, Mo., have in common. As a white woman, author Kezia Kamenetz says it isn't her place to talk about what the African-American community should do about the violence within, but as a human she can certainly call for fairness in the criminal justice system.
AUG 21 Columnist Stephanie Riegel is writing about the scandal that has rocked the LSU Alumni Association (to wit, the executive director's "girlfriend" also was his employee; when they "broke up" he started paying her, with alumni money, to keep her mouth shut). In particular, she's looking for some lessons to learn from the mishigas.
AUG 20 This post on the Texas Observer is a good one to read if you haven't bothered to pay much attention to the Rick Perry indictment. The pundits have collectively dismissed it as partisan politics - but the special prosecutor is a Bush man, and the judge is GOP. (They didn't mention THAT, did they?) It's a pretty good round up of what we do know, and more importantly, what we don't.
AUG 20 In this post, blogger Rod Dreher takes a look at the Tea Party's horror at David Vitter's reluctance to say he hates the Common Core with every fiber of his being. He also includes some commentary on the Tea Party's inability to tell news from satire. Hey, maybe that's why Facebook has to add those labels. Mystery solved!
AUG 20 This story in the New York Times updates the rest of the nation on the Common Core issue here in Louisiana, proclaiming that it is "dividing" the state. Unfortunately for Gov. Bobby Jindal, it is only a few sentences in before the author mentions that Jindal "ardently" supported Common Core when Louisiana joined the movement a few years ago, and the implication is that he's agin it now because he wants to be president and thinks that will help.
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