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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NOV 21 Bobby Jindal is headed to Iowa again, the Des Moines Register reports here. The paper outlines what's going on with Bobby's non-campaign for president, and there's a lot of stuff here -- too bad none of it sounds like somebody running Louisiana. Hey, wasn't that the job he wanted?
NOV 21 The end of the term has come for the grand jury investigating a lucrative Medicaid contract and a former state health official's ties to the company that won it, the Advocate reports here, but that doesn't mean the investigation into this stinkiness is over. There are still some things to look into, the lead prosecutor says.
NOV 21 With the passage of two amendments to Louisiana's much-amended constitution (it has been amended almost 200 times now) higher education has an even bigger target on its collective back, columnist Jim Beam opines in this post. Higher ed used to share the spotlight with health care, but that has changed, he says.
NOV 21 Here's a weird one: The Louisiana Cannabis Industry Association has endorsed Bill Cassidy for the U.S. Senate. Apparently, Mary Landrieu said she wouldn't consider support of medical marijuana but Cassidy said he would, WWL reports here.
NOV 21 Solange Knowles, possibly best-known for assaulting her brother-in-law in an elevator while wearing an ugly dress after the Met Ball, got married in the Marigny Opera House this past weekend, the New York Times reports here. Knowles, who has a house in the Faubourg Marigny district and owns a boutique in the Quarter, married Alan Ferguson.
NOV 21 This post on the Fuel Fix blog outlines a $1.4 billion move announced this week by the Apache Corp. that includes the sale of assets in south Louisiana. The company's interests in more than 90,000 acres in south Louisiana are some of the assets being sold, the post reports.
NOV 21 One (possible) positive from Hurricane Katrina is a comprehensive zoning ordinance for New Orleans. Nine years later, we're getting closer to that being finalized, but the current version has some problems. Here's the latest in a series of posts on The Lens in which residents give their views of the draft; this one is more amusing than most.
NOV 21 The new NOLA smoking ordinance is going to harsh your (nicotine) buzz, man. This post on Gambit outlines the high (or low, as the case may be) points: it includes electronic cigarettes and hookahs in its bans; eliminates smoking within 25 feet of any building's public entrance and in any public space - or near any public space - operated by the city.
NOV 20 Politico reports here that Bobby Jindal won't be kept out of the presidential race by anyone else's candidacy. (If he's running, which he's not, 'cause he's not done prayin' on it) So he's not interested in who is running, or what the polls say, or how much money he's got? K.
NOV 20 NOLA Defender's Tiny Daiquiri has a little fun with Bobby Jindal's Meet the Press appearance in this post. Bobby is still prayin' on whether or not he'll run for the job he's been running for over the past three years, Tiny says.
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