Vouchers at Work

By Bill Maher

The numbers are in. Now in its third year, Bobby Jindal's ever-expanding school voucher program is finally starting to show results. And those results are completely shitty.

To make the program accountable, students who use public money to attend private schools are obligated to take part in statewide standardized testing, just like public school kids. The Times-Picayune reports that the most recent tests of the voucherized private school kids, third through eighth grade, showed only 40% of them were at or above grade level. The state average, for all students, is 69%. 

The fact that 40% is a lot less than 69% is only unclear if you're a voucher kid.

Many of the schools that are producing these failing kids are, unsurprisingly, the kind of religious-oriented schools that popped up or expanded to take advantage of the voucher dollars. Some of the names of the schools that have produced less than 25% proficiency in their three years in the program: Life of Christ Academy, Upperroom Bible Church Academy, Conquering Word Christian Academy, Holy Rosary Academy and Faith Christian Academy.

Hmm. What do all of these have in common?

The best construction you can put on this stuff is that the program is brand new. These students were largely flooding in from failing schools, and 61% of them are in their first year of private school. As a result of the failures, the worst-performing schools won't be allowed to take in new state-funded students next year (but they can keep the ones they've got).

Bobby Jindal is fighting to re-fund the program this year. To him and lots of conservatives like him, this is the answer -- give parents the choice to select the school that is "best for their child." And then, clearly, less-educated parents will find some crappy nearby Jesus-factory that has no state-defined curriculum or state-defined teacher credentials and... off they go. Choice at work!

It gets worse. 90% of the parents whose kids take part in this program are "happy" with their kids' voucher school. After all, their child now goes to a private school! With "Christian" right there in the name! What's not to like?