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.
JUNE 16 This story in the Advocate tells us that the state Department of Education is taking a look at the Course Choice program. They're doing that because the legislature (probably responding to reporting by Tom Aswell, who does not work for the Advocate) ordered them to make sure that these private companies aren't signing six-year-olds up for high school Latin classes without their parents' knowledge or consent.
JUNE 17 Columnist James Gill writes about the recent complaint of death row inmates at Angola: it's hot as you-know-what in their cells, with the heat index topping 120 for months. Since we're not executing people anymore (Gill opines) then we should probably officially end the practice of putting people on death row. The prisoners, by the way, are not asking for cool breezes: they only ask for clean water and a temp that doesn't top 88.
JUNE 17 Here's blogger Ian McGibboney's take on the Baton Rouge plan to give bus tickets to homeless people who have a home with family who live far away. Taken from one point of view, it could be a good solution for some people. But McGibboney raises some good points here, including this one: Why not improve opportunities for everybody in Baton Rouge so these people can find the jobs they came to BR for?
JUNE 17 Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry talks here about the Zimmerman trial, but the real topic is the concept of a black man being more dangerous, somehow, than a white man in a fight. It is an interesting discussion, and one that may enlighten people who think that racism doesn't exist because nobody's keeping black folks from eating at the Woolworth lunch counter.
JUNE 17 Here's an interesting column from Baton Rouge Business Report's publisher, Rolfe McCollister, about anger against the government. It's brewing because of recent revelations about the IRS and the GSA, he says. It's readable, not just for the subject, but because of McCollister's collection of sources: Huffington Post, National Review and Wikipedia. That's a combo you don't see every day.
JUNE 17 In this American Press post, Jim Beam talks about the high school diploma track that lets kids who aren't interested in university get what they want and need out of high school. The diplomas get kids ready for technical school, Beam explains, and then he goes on to give some of the numbers. Some of these numbers might really surprise people who think technical school is second best. And, Beam adds, a college diploma does not guarantee anybody a job.
JUNE 17 The Washington Post reports here that OSHA is going to investigate the explosion that occurred last week in Donaldsonville, shortly after the other fatal accident in Geismar. As soon as the site is safe, State Police will be pulling out of the Donaldsonville plant to make way for OSHA investigators, the story reports. (Hey, here's an idea: why don't they go a couple miles down the road and figure out what happened when that massive sinkhole started sucking up land.)
JUNE 17 Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board of Supervisors in this post, taking a look at the many ways board members have served Gov. Jindal and not their university or their students. The board members are esteemed members of their fields, but can't seem to do anything but say "yes" to Jindal, regardless of the cost to LSU, Mann opines.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again, it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to go public this year.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.