WASHINGTON — While the Louisiana Supreme Court rejected the funding mechanism for the state’s expanded school voucher system, state Superintendent of Education John White was discussing school choice and accountability with members of Congress.
White was invited to testify by the GOP-led House Education and the Workforce Committee on how to improve and reauthorize the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.
White argued in favor of a more simplified federal education system that creates the framework and accountability standards, while allowing local school leaders to implement what works best for their communities.
“If we continue to insist on the idea that a pro-forma set of metric developed in Washington are suitable for every circumstance in the state, then it totally negates the power of the states to be policy laboratories,” White said.
White also made the case for school choice and vouchers.
“Each state should develop a plan that guarantees a high-quality alternative for every student attending a failing school,” White said.
Vouchers are state aid that allows some students who attended public schools rated C, D and F to attend private and parochial schools at state expense.
Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., complained that cutting funds from failing schools only makes them worse. Taking students away from such schools through voucher programs only further weakens the schools, he said, arguing that school choice is “one of the least effective” education reform efforts. The focus should be on improving the public schools, he said.
“I don’t think a plan that consigns kids to just waste away in a struggling school …” White said before Scott cut him off.
“But if you cut the funding then the school is worse off and the ones that get to sneak out the door” are often the students with families who have more “political influence” in a school, Scott said.
White argued that properly funding schools and paying teachers is a priority as well as offering school choice for those in need.
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., however, complimented some of the improvements made in New Orleans. “I spent a lot of times over the years … visiting New Orleans schools, and I walked away almost crying most of the time that I visited that state because of the schools,” Miller said.
After Hurricane Katrina, Miller said he saw the energy, entrepreneurship and togetherness “demonstrated what was possible in that classroom with that exact population.”
“There was excitement,” Miller said, about making progress on the educational opportunities that students were “denied for so long.”