Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Vouchers failed in N'orleans

From the Times Picayune last Friday:

A plan to give some students in failing New Orleans elementary schools state-financed vouchers to attend private schools fell one vote short of getting out of a Senate committee Thursday, likely killing it for the session.

House Bill 613 by Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville, had many powerful critics, from Gov. Kathleen Blanco to teachers unions to interim New Orleans schools Deputy Superintendent Ora Watson, who is in charge of the troubled system. Lawmakers on the Senate Education Committee were deadlocked on the issue, voting 3-3 on the legislation, which meant the proposal would not go to the Senate floor.

There's the good news. Now the bad:

Burns' bill had picked up surprising steam, buoyed by widespread frustration with the Orleans Parish school system, where 55 schools are on the state's failing list because of subpar test scores and other problems. The proposal, which was backed by the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, was approved 13-1 by the House Education Committee last week and cleared the House 62-37 in a historic advance.

The Picayune ran another article the next day basically making the point that this "historic advance" has emboldened voucher proponents to try harder next time.

I know that many readers of this blog will wonder -- given the wretched state of New Orleans' schools -- why this is a bad thing. Consider this:

Critics of the bill noted that unlike the public schools, the private schools participating in the voucher program would not be required to accept students with disciplinary records.

So you would get a situation where the private schools would take only students that would behave and leave the ne'er-do-wells to the public school system to sort out. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Further -- and this is my favorite quote:

Sen. Gerald Theunissen, R-Jennings, said he would oppose the legislation if it applied to parishes in his district, but he agreed that something new needs to be tried in New Orleans.

This is the conservative, small government, local control Republican party, right? We're for vouchers, just not in our districts. Do it in the urban districts, leave ours alone. Why? If vouchers and the free market and competition are so great -- and a monopoly is so bad -- isn't that true everywhere?

It's amazing how malleable principles are, isn't it?


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