Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The V-Word for NOLA

The idea that school vouchers hold the best hope for the future of New Orleans’ educational system is gaining increasing acceptance. On Sunday, the Times-Pic published an article, in which LSU economist Loren Scott advocated a voucher system as a remedy for New Orleans schools that were sub-par even before Katrina, and by extension for Louisiana’s shrinking corporate base. According to Alan Syre’s article:

“‘The education system is a major impediment not only to white-collar employment, but all employment,’ Scott said. ‘The same people can go elsewhere in the United States and put their kids in the K-through-12 system without the problems you have in the New Orleans system.’

Scott said drastic action, such as a voucher system that would still have the state paying for education without trying to run it, is long overdue. Although the mention of vouchers can send some—especially those tied to the current public system—into paroxysms. Scott said the first state to fully adopt the system of allowing schools to compete for students will find itself way ahead in the development game.”

Previously, the Urban Institute issued a paper authored by Paul Hill and Jane Hannaway advocating a don’t-call-it-a-voucher-system voucher plan. They proposed:

A Scholarship plan under which all New Orleans students, no matter where each went to school previously, can take a set amount of money to any local school. This amount (including funds for facilities rental) could come from a combination of state and federal aid. Far more than a voucher plan, the idea is to prompt the private sector to open more schools and thus promote school quality.”

Even parochial schools would be eligible under Hill and Hannaway’s plan, but don’t call it a voucher. Catholic and charter schools have proved far more resilient rebounding from Katrina than incompetent traditional government schools in New Orleans. Regardless of semantics, a voucher plan for New Orleans is an idea whose time has come.