For what it’s worth, over a year ago, many of us attempted to warn Scott McKay and his team at The Hayride about the serious issues with the New Living Word School in Ruston, Louisiana. As Barbara Leader and others at The News Star reported exhaustively at the time, the largest voucher school in the State of Louisiana appeared to have some major issues that were either swept under the rug or completely ignored. For what it’s worth, I published a few things on my own website about the school, arguing rather forcefully that the school should not have been included in the program and raising several concerns about the school’s capacity, its resources, its experience, and its qualifications. A month prior, Tom Bonnette and Scott McKay published a couple of full-throated defenses of the New Living Word School, going so far as to label it a “model” for the program.

Last Friday, Superintendent White and the Department of Education published the findings of an independent auditor who was tasked with reviewing and evaluating the financials of participating voucher schools in order to determine their compliance. As it turns out, the New Living Word School– the Hayride’s cause celebre– had to be removed from the program for misappropriating nearly $400,000 in taxpayer subsidies. As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, we had been sounding the alarms bells against that particular school for months, and for good reason: Not only was New Living Word the largest voucher school in the program, it suffered from enormous institutional, infrastructural, and academic challenges, all of which should have raised major red flags when Superintendent White and the Department of Education considered which schools to qualify.

Then again, as I’m now learning, the ways in which schools applied for voucher funding were almost comically deficient– more often that not, it amounted to nothing more than a hand-written five-page checklist. Even though participating schools were required to submit an independent audit, it appears these specific audits were never actually produced.

I’m not trying to be purposely evocative or confrontational here, though I recognize I’m doing precisely that. Either way, Superintendent John White provided a stunningly naive understanding of these issues, a reflexive and patently dishonest reaction to his own negligent laissez-faire escapade on school vouchers: All they had to do was apply. No real auditing. No accountability or transparency. The mission was simple: Attract as many schools as possible, accept them into program, and answer questions later.

Which brings me to this: Superintendent John White should resign.

There is absolutely no excuse for his lack of oversight. Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been fraudulently utilized, and the buck stops with him. Try as he might to spin the Auditor’s report as a sign that he values transparency, the unvarnished truth is: It’s not your typical auditing report. The program itself is now diseased and corrupted by cheaters, fraudsters, and a toothless bureaucracy.

More later….

8 thoughts

  1. The voucher program was promoted and passed on premise something must be done to enable poor children to escape failed public schools .However critics of the program felt just another tactic to undermine public education in favor of elitest ideological agenda best advanced in mostly far right “academies”. Surprising that it was not thought of and tried during efforts of segregationists to circumvent integration of public schools in the 1950s and 1960s.

  2. I sent the following request to all legislators on June 30. Not one has responded to me personally. Time for a follow up mail and then phone calls.

    Ladies and Gentlemen:

    What more will it take for those of you with the influence and position needed to call for a full investigation of John White, Patrick Dobard, LDE, RSD and BESE?

    At some point and as a result of overt support of the continued bilking of taxpayer dollars and the resulting theft of our children’s educational opportunity, all will be held accountable. It is not possible to put one’s head in the sand while passing legislation that promulgates this corruption while maintaining one’s reputation with your constituents.

    Many join me in asking for any one or more of you to pull the trigger on a full and impartial investigation and audit of these parties and a special legislative hearing with full testimony and questioning by and to highly qualified educators and researchers who continue to work hard to raise the veil of corruption and lies being perpetrated – those who have no political or financial gain to look forward to but who revere public education and the opportunity it affords the future of our democracy. How many more millions of dollars will have to come from your pockets and the pockets of Louisiana citizens and into those pockets of these crooks.

    Please respond to this formal and public request as to your position. The public deserves to know that you are listening.

  3. Wow – just as I posted this comment I got my first response.

    Lee:
    Thanks for your hard work on this matter. I remain opposed to the voucher program and believe that the significant problems (academic and monetary) are widespread. We need more transparency.
    John Bel

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