The state Department of Education will resubmit a required report to the Legislature after controversy over purported claims that vouchers save the state money, officials said Tuesday.
The decision stems from complaints by a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that the original report would make lawmakers conclude that spending more on vouchers would save the state dollars in the midst of a budget crisis.
“The message is wrong,” BESE member Doris Voitier said during a meeting in March.
The revised version makes clear that there is disagreement on whether vouchers save money.
The new report says the Legislative Fiscal Office has concluded that eliminating the aid would result in cost savings because once students return to public schools, expenses drop.
“Conversely, the University of Arkansas concluded that eliminating or reducing the program as a way to reduce state education expenditures could increase overall education expenditures in that the total amount of public dollars spent — including both state and local — would increase,” according to the revised page.
State Superintendent of Education John White said disputes about the initial report stemmed in part from some of the planned wording failing to make the first draft.
“I am happy to resubmit the report,” White told BESE.
Vouchers are state aid for students from low-income households attending public schools rated C, D or F to attend private schools at state expense.
About 7,100 students are in the program, mostly minorities and mostly in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
The assistance may be cut by 14 percent for the 2016-17 school year.
However, efforts are underway in the special session to find more dollars.
The session ends Thursday.
Voitier is superintendent of the St. Bernard Parish School District and one of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ three appointees to BESE.
The dispute erupted during what was expected to be BESE accepting a routine report.
But Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana Schools Boards Association, was among those who objected.
Richard quoted a LFO study that said the state would spend $8.3 million more for vouchers than would have been paid to public schools.
Voitier said at the time that the department review was off target.
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