The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved a new set of academic standards Tuesday for private schools participating in Louisiana's expanded voucher program. By a vote of 9-2, the 11-member panel, known as BESE, adopted a plan proposed by state Superintendent John White that will require private schools to hit roughly the same academic bar that public schools do in order to continue accepting more students through the program.The standards exclude those schools with less than forty students, however, which has drawn criticism. It is hard not to see this as a result of widespread coverage of Louisiana school children looking for the Loch Ness Monster and being taught creationism.
Test scores aside, the program is also drawing concerns that state tax dollars could end up going to schools that reject evolution in favor of creationism. Zack Kopplin, a college student who gained notoriety in 2010 when he attacked a state law that critics saw as a backdoor endorsement of creationist ideas, turned up at the BESE meeting Tuesday with a list of schools in the voucher program that appear to promote a biblical interpretation of human origins.Somebody saw the handwriting on the wall and realized that if the voucher program was going to survive and not suffer a constitutional challenge, changes had to be made to make sure that creationism wasn't being taught and they weren't using curricula that trash evolution.
Kopplin cited a line from the student handbook at Faith Academy, in Gonzalez, requiring students to "defend creationism through evidence presented by the Bible versus traditional scientific theory."
White's plan gives BESE responsibility for ensuring private schools "maintain a curriculum of quality at least equal to that prescribed for similar public schools," with the power to hand down penalties "including ineligibility to participate or ineligibility to accept new students."As it should.
But during a conference call Tuesday, White suggested that he would rely instead on the science portion of the state's LEAP exams to weed out schools that aren't teaching biology up to acceptable standards. "The test measures evolution," he said.