Thursday, June 07, 2012

Other things wrong with vouchers

Sayeth Gov. Bobby Jindal (via Dig): "We are letting parents decide what is best for children, not the government."

Sayeth Education Superintendent John White: "To me, it's a moral outrage that the government would say, 'We know what's best for your child.' Who are we to tell parents we know better?"

Who are you? You're THE STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION! You should be telling every parent in the state, "I am a qualified educator. I am in charge of the largest, most expansive school system in Louisiana, and as such I am bound to ensure that all of our schools are safe, effective and accountable. While our schools aren't perfect, you can be sure that our thoroughly vetted and scrutinized curriculum is much better than you will find in the basement at Jethro's Jesus Shack."

But that would require White to be competent in his position, and as a conservative in government, he has a sworn duty to be a train wreck. Such words would also do nothing to address the staggering lack of public education funds going to Jethro's Jesus Shack, Revisionist Learnin' LLC, Lord's Gym and Academy Sports & Outdoors Academy.

So instead of improving public schools or otherwise not shirking his responsibilities, White insists that parents will be smart shoppers. HAS HE EVER MET ANY PARENTS? Most of them suck at stuff like this. That's true even if they're excellent, hands-on parents, which many parents frankly aren't. Either they're too busy, too ignorant, too drugged-up, too tired, too complacent or just unqualified to make a decision that could adversely affect how their child fares in life. And really, should they even have to do that? Isn't the whole point of compulsory education that all schools offer all children the chance to learn and succeed? Sometimes the state does need to step in. Someone has to be able to say, "Those uneducated parents are making a mistake sending their kid to the Vicious Cyclery of Little Knowledge. Here's a better plan."

On the other hand, maybe all parents are better judges of schools than White. He seems like a total dunce.


• No matter how this turns out for Louisiana education — whether it's apocalyptic or merely an unmitigated disaster — its advocates will consider it a success. This is a guarantee. It'll sound something like this: "Kids who used vouchers are now testing two grades above their public school brethren. See? Like, it totally works!" Yeah, it works for the students for whom it works. What about the other ones in the crumbling schools who aren't doing any better? Are they a control group? Do they now exist solely to be the Washington Generals to the superstar Harlem Globetrotters? Apparently, because no one seems to want to teach the Generals any special tricks; they're too general. So take any measure of success with a grain of salt; they'll be focusing on the winners at the expense of the losers over something that shouldn't even be a game.

• "Mini-vouchers" will allow parents to shop (oh boy!) for classes, apprenticeships and tutoring offered by private companies. As is the case with many of the state-approved voucher schools, many of these will offer materials of dubious quality taught by questionably qualified instructors with ulterior ideological intent. But hey, profits! At least that lesson will stick.

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