About the Louisiana Voucher Program, Where Failure Really Is an Option
On May 19, 2016, Louisiana citizen James Finney submitted a public records request for data concerning student voucher applications submitted by the initial deadline of February 27, 2016, for the 2016-17 school year.
On July 21, 2016, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) sent Finney this data file. (Note: This file is useful for deciphering school site codes.)
Louisiana’s voucher program has a poor reputation. In January 2016, the Brookings Institute published a piece entitled, “When Winners Are Losers: Private School Vouchers in Louisiana.” In February 2016, US News and World Report published an article entitled, “Evidence Mounts Against Louisiana Voucher Program.” In March 2016, Louisiana state superintendent John White was called out by state board members for promoting a report that said vouchers saved money in the face of testimony before the board that they actually cost more.
The point of the voucher program is that it is supposed to provide a means to exit “failing” public schools. But the voucher schools themselves seem to be playing catch-up to the supposedly “failing” feeder schools. In December 2015, Danielle Drelinger of the Times-Picayune noted the following based on the only available data on voucher school outcomes for 2014-15:
The Louisiana Education Department released scores Thursday (Dec. 17) for 37 of the state’s more than 130 voucher schools. These are the larger programs, which educated about two thirds of the 7,382 voucher students. The state does not calculate scores for the other schools because they don’t have enough students taking tests. …Several indicators were still low in 2015:
- If the voucher schools were their own school system, it would be the fifth-worst of 76 in the state.
- Sixteen voucher schools scored fewer than 50 points out of a total of 150. In most years, that would grade out as an F on the state’s public school grading scale. …
So, the safe discussion to have is about gains… gains from pathetically, embarrassingly failing to less-pathetic, less-embarrassing failure, kind of like half-drowning but trying to pass it off as progress toward competitive-swim quality:
But Education Department officials said the program was moving in the right direction: …
- Despite the low absolute ranking, “The scholarship program’s increases in student achievement outpaced the majority” of public school systems,” Education Department officials wrote in a fact sheet.
Sure, on the whole, Louisiana’s voucher schools are flunkie, but in 2015, at a greater cost to the public than the public schools that they are trailing, voucher schools are, uh, less flunkie.
Let’s look at some numbers derived from that 2016-17 voucher application data file.
7,807 students who met the qualification for income eligibility applied for vouchers in 2016-17, where income eligibility means that the household income cannot exceed About the Louisiana Voucher Program, Where Failure Really Is an Option | deutsch29: