Back to the Future Louisiana Voucher Fiasco

Private schools that operate on a for-profit basis require OVERSIGHT

When Louisiana’s governor, along with many of his key supporters who have a vested interest in for-profit educational programs and supplemental materials, push vouchers through the 2012 session of the legislature, many taxpayers believed they were about to be given a break from the rapid rise in state and local expenses related to education. However the path for taxpayers may be seen in the rapid rise in costs that New Yorkers have seen just in preschool expenses.

A recent New York Times article reports: “New York City is paying private contractors more than $1 billion this year to operate a little-known special education program for 3- and 4-year-olds, nearly double the amount it paid six years ago.“Louisiana’s previous rise in taxpayer costs had been attributed mostly to the unfunded liability of the state’s retirement system. And, the legislature may take credit of plugging that gap partially, at least for future hires to the system.

Louisiana is geared to get a large number of new private institutions as well as out-of-state groups that will come in to make money from the system. Many will align themselves with non-profits to get by the gate keepers. Private schools that operate on a for-profit basis should not be operating without oversight. As long as they provide a good product and help lead students to success there should be nothing to complain about.  When the private sector fails to perform then it’s justifiable to give them the boot for a given period of time until they comply with the regulations to accept public money.  Education is the same as health care:  services must be rendered to the highest standards.  The problem with the for-profit sector in these two industries is they try to skimp on their services in the effort to attain the highest profit.  If they want to behave in this manner then they should operate on private sector money alone.

The voucher system in Louisiana may be the new form of public embarrassment that will only be reveals as the stakeholders in the for-profit system are uncovered. This, like so many of Louisiana’s historically well-known “dirty laundry” issues, often make Louisiana a leader in political scandal nationwide. And to think citizens thought we had a better way to address ethics!