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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Unregulated Voucher Schools Continue . . . Unregulated

I mentioned this previously, but today's paper has the full story that two voucher schools clamped down on by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction have won their appeals, and will be able to get some of your hard-earned tax money despite only tenuous evidence that they actually are "schools":
The state Department of Public Instruction acted in October to remove the two schools, Dr. Brenda Noach Choice School and L.E.A.D.E.R. Institute, from the program, saying they fell short of meeting the legal definition of a private school.

The two schools appealed, and the hearing examiner ruled that the Noach school uses a curriculum that meets legal requirements for showing it offers fundamental instruction in six subjects and that the L.E.A.D.E.R. school offers at least 875 hours of instruction a year. The DPI action was based on arguing the schools had failed to meet those points.

But L.E.A.D.E.R., 2200 N. King Drive, was not left completely in the clear. Its case for showing it met the minimum number of hours was based on having a year-round schedule, including days in the summer. [. . .] Thomas Erickson, the attorney for the Noach school, said the problem began when school officials had misunderstood what they had to supply to the DPI officials.
The Noach school, by the way, is in its fourth year as a voucher school, so if they are still "misunderstanding" what they have to do to get their voucher payments, I hate to see how much they are still "misunderstanding" when it comes to teaching the kids. And L.E.A.D.E.R. will not get its disbursement until it pays back about $130,000 of your tax money that it collected inappropriately over the last two years.

I suppose you could argue that the very fact that I am able to post this, and that we can have this conversation, shows that voucher schools really are regulated. To that, I say poppycock. For one, here we are 16 years into this grand experiment and just this year we finally have some slight challenges to some of the worst offenders in the program. For two, this is not regulation in any meaningful sense of the word: Holding back voucher monies until the right numbers show up on the right paperwork is nothing at all like accountability or oversight, and to suggest that somehow the results of this fall's attempted crackdown by DPI is somehow proof that all is well with the program is absurd.

I should point out this week's other voucher news, which should leave you equally disturbed. The paper reported Saturday that one of the two Mercedes Benzes purchased with your tax dollars by the former head of the Mandela School was finally auctioned off, allowing officials to pay a whopping 14% of the back pay owed to the teachers screwed by the school.

The former students of that school still have not gotten back that year of their lives.

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