I posted yesterday about Louisiana’s passage of a school voucher program. Republican leaders say the vouchers will be in place later this spring.
In that post, I used a quote from an article from The Town Talk, a Louisiana news organization.
In that same article, I found several disturbing quotes from one of the state’s Democrats, Sam Jones, in which he tries to draw a bizarre analogy about school choice & the death of Jesus. I’m not sure if this really got any coverage regionally or nationally, but it should have.
From the article:
“Are we going to be the first state to write a church a check? Think about it … I am appalled about how many religious denominations of schools ran up here to get this money.”
[Jones] reminded the House that Jesus said to “give unto Caesar what is owed to Caesar” but “the only time government dealt with him, they ordered his execution. This is a line we should not cross.”
I suppose Rep. Jones thinks the government should stay out of church affairs then? So it is safe to assume that he opposes Obamacare’s birth control mandate?
I draw attention to these comments for two reasons.
1. They’re outrageous & Rep. Jones deserves to be publicly shamed for these comments.
2. Supporters of school choice in Arkansas need to prepare for these types of outrageous, offensive attacks. Because come next January, when our own school choice battle kicks off, this will happen here. We need to be ready.
Just for kicks: Jones also added, “Every child is different and has different needs.”
Maybe he is a believer in school choice after all.
From The Friedman Foundation:
[Thursday, April 5], by a vote of 60-42, the Louisiana House of Representatives approved Gov. Jindal’s voucher expansion, which passed the Senate [April 4] 24-15.
“This is a momentous day for the families of Louisiana,” State Superintendent of Education John White said. “All students deserve a fair chance in life, and that begins with the opportunity to attend a high-quality school. These policy changes are aligned with that central belief, and Gov. Jindal and state lawmakers have demonstrated a clear commitment to prioritize the educational rights of Louisiana’s next generation above all else.”
The expansion of the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program will allow low- and middle-income students in Louisiana public schools graded “C,” “D,” or “F” by the state accountability system to receive government-funded vouchers to attend private schools. Currently, that option is available only to children in New Orleans and students with special needs in eligible parishes.
Governor Bobby Jindal said he is “not declaring victory, mission accomplished” because “we’ve still got a lot of work in this session,” like a bill that grants rebates to individuals and corporations that contribute money for vouchers.
But there is no disputing this is a huge step forward for education in The Bayou State.
Arkansas legislators should now go sit in the corner & reflect on the fact that Louisiana is now ahead of us in education reform.
From our friends at Goldwater Institute:
Gov. Jan Brewer is poised to expand one of the most liberty-enhancing education reforms in U.S. history, the latest step in her
growing legacy of meaningful education reform.
Last year, Gov. Brewer’s signature created the nation’s first education savings account program for K-12 students, which allows parents to use state funds to customize their child’s education. With these savings accounts, the state deposits 90 percent of a student’s per pupil funding in a private account managed by her parents. Parents can use the funds for private school tuition, tutoring services, online classes, and textbooks, as well as several other educational services. Families can also save the funds for college tuition.
Under current law, students with special needs are eligible for the accounts. The proposed expansion now on the governor’s desk would extend eligibility to 94,000 students in chronically failing public schools, as well as academically gifted students and students in military families.
Alright Arkansas, the bar has been set.
Governor Bobby Jindal & Republicans in Louisiana are pushing to expand school choices for families. The state currently has a limited form of school choice, according to The Pelican Post:
The Student Scholarship for Educational Excellence Program currently serves 1,912 students. It offers vouchers which average $4,863 each to low-income pupils in New Orleans in grades K-6 only. Jindal’s proposal would expand the program to the entire state and include students who attend schools graded C, D, or F among other criteria.
But of course the proposal is not going through without a fight & some good ole fashioned name-calling by state Democrats. One Democrat, Rep. John Bel Edwards, has even gone so far as to call the governor & supporters of the reforms Nazis.
Predictable, sad and, regrettably, perhaps a preview of what’s to come as Arkansas preps for its own school choice battle next year.
You can hear the audio in this report:
I popped into the White County Republican Women’s meeting on Tuesday evening to hear State Rep. Mark Biviano unveil part of the House Republicans’ platform for next year’s general assembly. Biviano is serving as Policy Director for the House GOP caucus. (Minority Leader Bruce Westerman told me earlier this week that the full platform will be unveiled by the end of the month)
So, here’s a sneak peek at some of what we should see on the Republican platform in a few weeks:
1. Reigning in Government Spending. Biviano said, “We can’t keep growing government and expect taxpayers to keep paying the bill.” He added that a big part of reigning in spending is transparency: “The people deserve to know the good news & the bad news.” That’s change I can believe in right there.
Biviano cited the shortfalls in the Forestry department, the unemployment overpayments, and the increased projected shortfalls in the state’s Medicaid program as prime examples of how a little transparency could go a long way: “I learned about the increased projected shortfalls in Medicaid the same time y’all did, when I read the paper.” This is a serious problem that is rampant throughout the state government: shortfalls are being hidden for political purposes, and we, the taxpayers, are paying for it. Literally.
Biviano said reigning in government spending also includes implementing performance-based budgeting for state agencies. This system would give departments increases (or decreases) based on their performances, rather than across the board increases because ‘the governor said so.’
2. Tax Reform. Biviano said tax reform in Arkansas starts with eliminating the capital gains tax to encourage growth in the state. (click here to read a recent report from Goldwater Institute about the positive effects of such a repeal)
3. Fixing Medicaid. Biviano said Republicans wanted to use the state’s surplus from this year to cover the shortfalls in the program, but the governor did not want to listen. I would expect, and hope, that Republican solutions to the crisis will look something like this.
4. Protecting Arkansas’ Future. This part of the platform includes more pro-life legislation, which may include (if I understood correctly) a fetal pain bill.
Protecting the future also means reforming unemployment benefits & instituting voter ID requirements in the state, said Biviano. Biviano said we need drug testing before Arkansans can receive unemployment benefits, as well as some non-prohibitive voter ID requirement to prevent voter fraud in our state.
5. Educational Excellence. Biviano started by setting the record straight on Arkansas’ standing in education:
Despite what you may read in the papers, we rank 45th in the ability to achieve. 50% of Arkansas high school graduates have to take additional coursework before college.
I am a believer in school choice. It’s in our best interest as a state to put our students where they can succeed.
Biviano also added that we spend more than $11,000 per student in Arkansas which is more than enough to cover the cost of private education. (I believe when I was in private high school the tuition was right around $5,000 per year, or less than half what the taxpayers are currently paying–and I believe I got a better return on my investment)
And this is just the preview! This is very exciting for idea-oriented conservatives across the state. And even aside from the content, which is excellent, it’s just a great idea for the caucus to present a detailed, no-nonsense plan like this to the voters. It’s a ‘contract with America’ approach that is bold, clear, and principled.
If they stick to it, it’s a winner for Republicans and a winner for Arkansas. It will resonate with voters. It already is.
In what the Wall Street Journal labeled “The Year of School Choice,” 2011 saw the continued growth of one of the country’s most prominent systems of school choice: The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP).
A report released last week by the University of Arkansas details some of the amazing accomplishments of MPCP:
- Enrolling in a private high school through MPCP increases the likelihood of a student graduating, enrolling in a four-year college, and persisting in college by 4 to 7 percentage points.
- Tracking MPCP and public-school students over four years, researchers found that MPCP outperform in reading and have similar results in math.
- Countering arguments that MPCP students are already high-achieving, researchers found that between 7.5 and 14.6 percent have a disability and many come to MPCP schools one to two years behind academically.
The study also uncovered that the MPCP system brings numerous external benefits to the state:
- Students who remained in public schools were performing at higher levels due to competitive pressures from voucher schools.
- Because the state-provided vouchers are less than the average cost of educating a student, the government realizes education savings (nearly $52 million in fiscal year 2011).
- The MPCP has had no discernible effect on the racial segregation of schools or housing costs across neighborhoods.
- The MPCP system does not create barriers to school switching between public and voucher schools — students continue to exercise high levels of educational mobility.
You can read the complete report from the U of A’s Patrick J. Wolf here.
This is great intellectual ammunition for activists & legislators in our state who are prepping for a school choice battle in the 2013 Arkansas legislative session. Arm yourself with the facts! And pray that Pat Wolf doesn’t lose his job.