Increase in vouchers raises questions
BATON ROUGE - This upcoming school year nearly 7,000 students will use vouchers to attend private schools paid for by the state and your tax dollars.
The program was originally set up to provide options for low-income families as an opportunity for kids in failing schools to attend a better school and receive better education. However, recent audits and an increase in voucher applications have left many wondering if the program is beneficial and if schools are playing by the rules.
"The scholarship value was equal to or greater than what the school was charging prior to this time," said Independent Education Researcher, Noel Hammatt. "In fact, many of the schools were in trouble for charging more than they were charging before they got the vouchers from the state."
Hosanna Christian Academy is one of 118 schools in Louisiana using the program. They have the second-highest number of voucher students at 500. Headmaster John LeSage says the program provides options for children who wouldn't otherwise be able to attend a private school.
"All parents, regardless of income, should have opportunities to have taxpayer money go to educate their child where they want them educated at," LeSage said. "I realize this could be detrimental to public schools if it was a cart blanche type situation, but fundamentally this is something I feel very strongly about."
Not everyone agrees, and those who oppose the program say it's taking taxpayer dollars and stripping funds from public schools.
"The money going to these private schools is your tax dollars and mine," Hammatt said. "We didn't vote for the boards, we don't have any oversight for these schools. In order to provide some profits for a few private schools were going to destroy public education."
Recent audits show little oversight for the program, and several schools were caught overcharging the state for tuition. BESE members say they are doing everything in their power to ensure every school abides by the law.
"As a board we have to identify and come up with a plan to ensure that the funding is being used appropriately," said Carolyn Hill, BESE District 8. "And if not those schools need to be held accountable."