Time to Fix the Flagship

Cross-posted on the Corner:

If there’s a policy that deserves to be a winner for the GOP (as well as being a thoroughly good thing in its own right), it is school choice and Bobby Jindal has done well to push it in Louisiana.

But having launched a flagship it’s important to ensure that it does not sink.

The Guardian reports:

[A] court case beginning Wednesday is set to shine light on a controversial policy in [Jindal’s] state which sees government funding given to schools that teach creationism….The case has been brought by a Louisiana teachers’ union and is aimed at a voucher scheme whereby some parents can take their children out of poor state schools and get vouchers to use at private schools.

One of the most controversial aspects of the programme is that some of the schools included on it are conservative Christian organisations that teach creationism in their science classes. When parents use the vouchers at such establishments they are effectively giving state money to teach children lessons that can include alternatives to the theory of evolution or questioning the widely accepted age of the Earth…

“This whole voucher plan was to give parents choices. But it is ignoring the quality of those choices,” said Mary-Patricia Wray, legislative and political director of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.

Now, there’s quite a bit of humbug running through those two sentences (Louisiana’s education scores have historically not been the most impressive), but Jindal has handed his opponents a useful weapon. He needs to take it back.

Stick with the voucher program—expand it wherever possible—but be careful to make sure that the standards of the schools that benefit from it are higher on every measure than those of the traditional public schools they may be replacing. I’m not convinced that taxpayer funding of schools that teach that the Earth is six thousand years old really does the trick, even if such schools are the rare exception rather than the rule.

The governor must plug the hole in his flagship. It’s too important to be allowed to sink.

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1 Response to Time to Fix the Flagship

  1. John says:

    The way that Republicans are introducing school vouchers is all wrong. Right now they are handing out a few vouchers to poor kids so they can go to schools in well-off neighborhoods. It is effectively a small-scale return to the busing policies of a generation or two ago.

    I’m going to be blunt. The purpose of a voucher system should be to keep smart kids away from dumb kids, not to mix poor kids with rich kids. The GOP does not want to appear heartless, so they are giving vouchers only to the poor, whereas the primary beneficiaries from a real voucher system (get rid of school districts entirely and allow schools to set admissions standards) would be the smart middle class kids who could go to better schools.

    You are never going to get majority support for school vouchers if you sell it mainly as a way to bring ghetto kids into suburban schools.

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