Jindal: Voucher schools don't need letter grades

by Heather Miller

The governor implied Monday that he does not support a school letter grade accountability system for private schools receiving public funds through his proposed statewide expansion of the Recovery School District's scholarship' program.

Gov. Bobby Jindal wants to give some 380,000 low-income students in Louisiana a chance to attend private schools on the public dole through an expansion of New Orleans' "scholarship" program, but asked Monday whether those scholarship - read voucher - schools should be given performance scores, Jindal's oblique response indicates the answer is no.

Speaking at the statewide education summit "Leadership for Change" in Baton Rouge, Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett, according to Gannett's Mike Hasten, touted his own state's "school choice" programs that include vouchers for private schools:

Bennett said he doesn't dance around the issue and substitute the word "scholarship" for the grants offered to students to attend private schools. He said he doesn't avoid the "V word" and calls a voucher what it is.

Bennett told the group of educators, businessmen and elected officials that Indiana has a provision that any "voucher school" that receives state money for even one student must submit to the state accountability program and test every student.

Like Louisiana, his state issues letter grades for schools. But if an Indiana private school scores "D" or "F" two years in a row, it can no longer participate in the voucher program.

Asked about accountability for private schools receiving vouchers, Jindal, also one of the summit's featured speakers, did not offer a yes or no answer, instead saying that "parents are the best accountability program."

Already facing an uphill battle to get his bold education agenda passed in the Legislature, Jindal's anti-accountability stance on private schools could make it even more difficult for the second-term governor to find widespread support on his proposed voucher expansion.

The students who participate in the New Orleans "scholarship" program are required to take the state's standardized tests, but the scores for students in the program show that scholarship students have demonstrated little to no improvement over their public school counterparts. View the dismal numbers here.

And as U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu pointed out during the summit, if all of the state's private schools upped their enrollment by 10 percent, a maximum of 11,200 kids would find an available slot in private schools across the state, The Times-Picayune reports.

Read more on Jindal's speech at Monday's Leadership for Change summit here.