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									3/14/12                                      Bobb Jindal school voucher plan worries watchdog group




     Bobb           Jindal chool o che plan                                            o ie           a chdog g o p
     Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2012, 10:45 PM

                    And e         Vanaco e, The Time -Pica                        ne
              By


     Gov. Bobb Jindal' bid o e pand he                        e of p i a e- chool o che                a e   ide could damage public
     education in Louisiana and leave some students in worse schools than those they already attend, warns a
     ne      epo      from the B       ea of Go e nmen al Re ea ch, a New Orleans-based nonprofit group.


                                                                                          The report is another slap at Jindal's
                                                                                          proposal from the middle ground in
                                                                                          Louisiana's debate about education reform.
                                                                                          It's been no surprise that teachers unions,
                                                                                          local school boards and superintendents
                                                                                          have attacked the idea. But the breadth of
                                                                                          the proposed voucher program, and the fact
                                                                                          that public education dollars would pay for
                                                                                          it, has drawn fire from a broader range of
                                                                                          groups. They've argued that private schools
                                                                                          should face stricter accountability if they're
                                                                                          going to accept taxpayer money.
      Vie   f ll i e
                                         Ge rald He rbe rt, The Associate d Pre ss

       Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is applaude d by le gislators during
                                                                                          BGR's report follows repeated calls for
       the ope ning se ssion of the 2012 Louisiana Le gislature on
                                                                                          greater accountability from Leslie Jacobs, a
       Monday.
                                                                                          former state official and champion of the
                                                                                          same charter-school movement that Jindal is
     looking to expand along with vouchers. The group Ci i en fo 1 G ea e Ne                                 O lean , another centrist
     group, raised the same concerns in an open letter this month, even as it endorsed the rest of Jindal's
     agenda. The Lo i iana B dge P ojec , a Baton Rouge nonprofit group, gave the plan an "F" in the area of
     accountability.


     Having reviewed BGR's report Tuesday, state Superintendent John White argued that restricting the
     program any further would leave students in some districts without access to better schools. As for holding
     private schools accountable, he pointed out that Jindal's proposal gives the state board of education
     leeway to set standards.


     In the governor's plan, any student enrolled in a public school rated C or below from a family earning less

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3/14/12                                      Bobb Jindal school voucher plan worries watchdog group

     than two and a half times the poverty line would be eligible. The state and local tax dollars that go to public
     schools on a per-pupil basis would follow any child that chooses to attend a participating private school.
     Technically, about 380,000 students would be eligible, though state officials expect only a few thousand
     would sign up initially.


     Although every voucher student would take state exams, the proposed legislation does not spell out any
     concrete academic benchmarks that private schools would have to meet, a fact BGR and other critics see as
     worrisome.


     "Under the proposed program, a student could use a voucher to transfer from an average-quality public
     school to a low-quality private school with no track record or qualifications," the group's report reads. "The
     student's academic performance could decline, and the state would impose no penalties on the school. And
     taxpayers would foot the bill for all of it."


     BGR is recommending the program be limited to students already attending or heading into schools rated D
     or F. The group also calls for excluding private schools that can't outperform the public schools from which
     they draw voucher students, arguing, "The state should establish appropriate academic eligibility standards
     and mandate the rigorous testing needed to determine whether a school meets them."


     Finally, BGR recommends paying for vouchers out of the state's general fund, rather than the pool of dollars
     set aside for public education, known as the Minimum Foundation Program. If the so-called MFP, a
     combination of state and local tax dollars, has to be touched at all, BGR recommends using only the state
     portion to avoid cutting too heavily into local school budgets.


     Andre     Vanacore can be reached at av anacore@tim espica une.com or 504.826.3304.



          2012 NOLA.com. All rights reserved.




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