Parents, advocacy groups refuse to remain silent of voucher issue


POSTED: Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 9:54pm

UPDATED: Saturday, October 27, 2012 - 11:06am

Though the state's scholarship program has already been in place since the start of the school year, the debate continues to rage on.

"It's not choice it's a slap in my face," exclaimed mother Dawn Collins, an opponent of the voucher program.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, opened up the floor for public comment Thursday. For those opposed to the program, it was a chance to raise concerns about the standards private schools are held to.

"They speak as if they care about my concerns, but simple things like across the board accountability measures, that's a no-brainer. Coming up with policy language that allows a lot of ambiguity as to whether or not they're going to enforce? It's an insult. It's an insult,” Collins continued. She said her biggest concern is without a clear, across the board accountability plan for private and public schools she could be sending her child from a failing public school to a failing private school.

While those in favor are just happy to have a way to pull their children out of failing schools.

"We need the scholarship program is a crisis solution to a crisis problem, it's not a fix all. It's just a place to start," Valerie Evans, a mother who has already utilized the program, explained.

Those, like the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, opposed to the voucher program maintain they're still hoping to change the law. For now at least they're hoping those select BESE members that were present for the testimony will listen to their suggestions when writing policy.

"What we're hoping will happen is serious folks will say, 'this isn't an argument about the law, the law is the law.' but as you implement it protect children, protect the public trust by making sure the rules have teeth. Otherwise, don't have them at all," Steve Monaghan, LFT president, said.

Education reform advocates admit there's always room for improvement, but feel the latest request for public testimony is just another stall tactic.

"You know it's a smoke screen, at the end of the day it's a smoke screen. Parents are happy. Parents know what's best for their children, and if they get in to schools and they're not working, they'll know how to remove them," Eric Lewis, with the Black Alliance for Educational Opportunity, added.

The testimony will also be made available for both house and senate education committees in case either decides to review or revise the voucher law.

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ALL the schools in Louisiana, public and private INCLUDING the Catholic schools should be held to the same standard and take the SAME tests to assess their performance. As it is, no one knows for sure how they stack up one against the other. I suspect that they are all a lot closer than they claim and that they are all less than they should be when ranked nationally -- but how can we know if they refuse to be held to the same standard testing?

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