BESE approves voucher rules

Louisiana’s top school board Tuesday afternoon voted 9-2 to endorse an accountability plan for voucher schools and students recommended by state Superintendent of Education John White.

The vote followed a two-hour meeting, including praise and critcism from school officials and others.

White on Monday unveiled a plan aimed at ensuring oversight of the state’s expanded voucher program.

Under the guidelines, students who attended C, D and F public schools, and whose families meet income rules, can qualify for vouchers to attend private and parochial schools.

Schools that meet enrollment thresholds – about 25 percent initially – will get scores from the state that show how voucher students are faring on the same standardized tests taken by public school students.

Those that fail to meet state standards would be banned from accepting additional voucher students.

“This is a bold first step that, for the most part, gets it right,” said Chas Roemer, who lives in Baton Rouge and is vice-president of the panel.

Others who backed the plan included the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the Council for a Better Louisiana and the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools.

Lottie Beebe, a BESE member from Breaux Bridge, criticized the policy’s lack of assigning letter grades to schools that accept voucher students.

“We are not playing on an equitable playing field,” said Beebe, who voted “no” on the policy along with Carolyn Hill, who lives in Baton Rouge.

Others opposing White’s plan included the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana School Boards Association.

The policy requires that test results be reported to the state for voucher students in private schools even if they fail to meet enrollment thresholds that trigger a score from the state.

More than 10,000 students have applied for vouchers.

State officials are notifying families this week whether they will receive a voucher and for which school.