Bob Mann’s Reading The Hayride Archives…

…although it takes prompting from his Twitter troll buddy Lamar White to get him to do so.

After yesterday’s piece here at the site on Mann’s dopey anti-school choice screed in the Times-Picayune, Lord Bob discovered a piece Tom Bonnette wrote back in May of last year taking issue with the lynch mob then assaulting the participation of the New Living Word School in Ruston in the state’s school voucher program. Tom’s piece contained a paragraph that Mann – prompted by White – is now touting as a coup de grace of our endorsement/defense of New Living Word School, which didn’t perform well this year and is being dropped from vouchers…

Critics of the voucher system are holding up New Living Word as an example of how flawed the voucher system is and how people like Baldwin will take advantage of it to make money.

Actually, what’s going on with New Living Word Church shows that the voucher system is working just as it’s supposed to we should  hope he makes lots of money and grows his school as much as possible.

Jeez, how terrible. Bob’s right – we should shut this whole site down for being wrong about whether New Living Word was a good educational investment.

Of course, naturally he doesn’t take into consideration what else was in Bonnette’s piece last year…

While the school’s initial request for 315 students was accepted, it’s important to remember that not one penny of state money has yet to be given to the school through the voucher program.

Before the school gets any voucher money—the same money that would be spent on a student in a public school—a few things have to happen.

Superintendent White explained to a Senate committee on Wednesday that schools receiving larger numbers of voucher students would have to go through an additional review process to conclude how many students would be admitted through the program. Moreover, the school will have to undergo more critical scrutiny before the first voucher student walks through its doors—parental scrutiny.

Baldwin could ask for ten times as many voucher students, but he won’t be getting any if parents see that he isn’t able to provide them with an education better than public schools can.

He will be needing more than faith to be successful–he’s going to need results.

With all due respect to Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Jody Amedee, R-Gonzales, who reportedly said “ This is an example of why I had reservations on voting on vouchers. We can’t let this turn into just a money-making scheme. It seems like they’re doing this just for the vouchers,”  schools participating in the voucher program are doing so to make money. That’s the way it’s supposed to work and there’s nothing wrong with that.

They might love kids—but private schools exist to make money.

For schools to make money off voucher students, they are going to have to be competitive and are going to have to provide a better education than their public school counterparts. If not, parents won’t send their kids there, whether they are doing so through vouchers or by paying out of pocket.

If private and parochial schools fail in the free market, they will shut down. Failing public schools are propped up by tax dollars where they can keep failing perpetually. Baldwin has ambitious plans to grow his school, but it’s going to be nothing more than a pipe dream if students are underserved. He will fail and deserve to fail.

Nothing in Bonnette’s piece was an endorsement of New Living Word’s academic fitness. Neither Bonnette nor I ever expressed any opinion as to what kind of school Rev. Baldwin was or is putting together up in Ruston. For us here at the Hayride that’s never been the issue.

Tom’s piece makes that pretty clear. Bob Mann either didn’t bother to read, or would prefer that the readers of his blog weren’t industrious enough to find, the line in that piece which says that “if students are underserved…He will fail and deserve to fail.”

White also posted on Twitter a link to another piece here at the time that I wrote, claiming it was evidence of our “repeated” defense of New Living Word School.

Yep, it sure was a rousing defense of New Living Word…

I have no brief for Baldwin. Baldwin was the head football coach at UL-Lafayette a few years back and he went 8-37 in four years. When the school decided he wasn’t the right guy and fired him, Baldwin sued them and alleged that the firing was racially motivated. He has the right to sue if he thinks he’s been wronged, certainly, but suing when you get fired for winning just two games a year doesn’t say great things about your character.

On the other hand, we all fail in life. None of the politicians who want to trash Baldwin and call him a charlatan are perfect, either. Mary Landrieu refused to answer phone calls from irate constituents after she sold her Obamacare vote and then, when somebody showed up to make a gotcha film about her unresponsiveness, she sicced the federal marshals on them. Nobody is particularly holier-than-thou here.

By the way, if Baldwin’s school is nothing but a fleece-job of the parents and kids in Ruston let’s remember that it requires those parents and kids to choose to be fleeced by him. Not politicians, parents and kids. Just because you sign up to get a voucher it doesn’t mean you have to use it at a particular school. And the tap-dance the News-Star did on Baldwin will make his sales job that much harder in attracting those parents and kids.

Let’s also remember that the folks the News-Star and the politicians are supposedly trying to protect from Baldwin would only get the opportunity to be screwed by him as a result of the fact they’re already being screwed by the lousy public schools in the area.

I then went into a fairly detailed description of the financial numbers and school performance of the government schools in Lincoln Parish, and in particular Ruston Elementary School – the “F” school most of the New Living Word voucher kids would be coming from. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to find out that the government schools in Ruston are positively abysmal, and furthermore they’re a lot more expensive than the vouchers for the New Living Word School were last year and would be in the future had Superintendent of Education John White not pulled the plug on doing voucher business with Rev. Baldwin.

And I did the same thing yesterday when this fight was rejoined following Mann’s goofy T-P column…

Would it surprise Bob Mann to know that Ruston Elementary is an “F” school with just 45 percent of its students at grade level in English and only 39 percent in math?

If New Living Word is doing its students such a disservice by using DVD’s to teach them, what does he think about the methods at Ruston Elementary?

Because after all, Mann’s $6,300-per-student outrage at New Living Word becomes his $9,242-per-student silence at Ruston Elementary. In other words, he has no problem with kids not learning in union-dominated traditional public schools at a cost of $3,000 per year more than what vouchers would cost us – but try something new and he goes ballistic if he can find one straw man.

Again, Education Secretary John White got rid of New Living Word after only one year. Did New Living Word bilk the state out of money? Probably so. Mann alleges that the overcharge was $387,000; that is an infinitessimal drop in the bucket for even a small public school system to waste.

Ruston Elementary’s financial audit indicates a “central office overhead” figure of $1,410 per student. At 447 students, that comes to $630,000. The audit also states that the school’s “Other support” figure, which is money not spent on teachers, school buses or school administration, is $1,902 per student. That comes to over $850,000.

And the school administration figure of $475 per student at 447 students comes to $212,325. That’s not central office overhead; that’s administration just for the school. Between school administration at Ruston Elementary, “other support” at the school and central office overhead for the Lincoln Parish School Board allocated to Ruston Elementary, they’re spending $3,787 per student per year. At 447 students, that’s $1.69 million per year.

Do you really think there isn’t $387,000 in that $1.69 million in overhead that couldn’t be saved or spent better somewhere else?

This for a school which can’t get anywhere close to half its students at grade level.

When the Twitter war over my piece yesterday touched off got going (I’m not going to embed the tweets from that here; between White and the rest of his crowd all making the same straw-man arguments about how the voucher program is no good because of the New Living Word School – and accusing us of “repeatedly defending” a school both Tom and I said we didn’t care about – got very tiresome very quickly; you can find those here if you want), I asked the question why the other side didn’t seem to care about the persistent failure of Ruston Elementary but they’re all bent out of shape about vouchers for New Living Word which are less expensive per student than Ruston Elementary is.

Ultimately, that’s the real question here. Neither Mann nor White nor anybody else in the lynch mob chasing after Rev. Baldwin’s vouchers or John White for giving him a chance even bother to take note of the fact that regardless of Baldwin’s failure and White’s pulling the plug on him as part of that program, a bad education at New Living Word School saves the taxpayers about $3,000 per year per student from what a bad education at Ruston Elementary would cost. And none of that crowd bothers to take note that nobody gets a bad education at New Living Word School without choosing to get one; at Ruston Elementary the bad education is compulsory if you can’t afford to come out of pocket to get something better.

The apoplexy over New Living Word would be hilarious if it wasn’t so shameless. Let’s reiterate what’s going on here…

  1. There’s a government school in Ruston which is a failure, and an expensive one at that.
  2. There are parents of students at that school who don’t want their kids going there anymore.
  3. Somebody else opens a school offering a different option which stresses Christian values and more discipline than the failed government school, though the new guy on the block is shaky with respect to infrastructure and finances.
  4. The state decides to give the new guy a chance at using vouchers to enroll students even despite some bad publicity, and about 100 dissatisfied parents of kids in the failed government school think even despite the bad publicity it’s worth giving him a shot.
  5. The new guy doesn’t produce up to the level the state demands of voucher participants, and the state exercises its role as gatekeeper in this new educational marketplace to remove him from the program.
  6. The episode is a disaster because kids who haven’t been learning anything at the failed government school don’t learn anything with the new guy, and in the process the taxpayer actually saves about $290,000 on expenses for bad education in Ruston.
  7. Opponents of school vouchers in general say this whole thing shows that the program is a washout, and it’s a waste of taxpayer money.

Yes, No. 7 is what Bob Mann says. It’s right there in his blog entry accusing this site of defending New Living Word School…

It’s actually one of the worst examples of Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s failed voucher program.

See? It’s a “failed voucher program,” which has been in place for all of a year.

Actually, that’s not really true, because the statewide voucher program is really more or less an extension of a school voucher program which has been in place in New Orleans for five years now. And in the metric which counts most, namely parent satisfaction, vouchers in New Orleans are a rousing success

The survey, conducted by direct mail in December 2011 by the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), reported an overwhelming satisfaction rate – 93.4 percent – among parents with children in the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence program, which allows qualifying families to send their children to participating private schools of their choice. The percentage includes those parents who reported being “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their child’s school.

The survey also found that 94.3 percent of respondents are happy with their child’s academic progress in the program. Additionally, 99 percent of respondents indicated that their child feels safe and welcome in their current school.

Some failure.

Yes, in the first year of the statewide program there were some ugly numbers on the LEAP test among voucher kids. Nobody said this would be an instant success. But isn’t it amazing that Mann managed to declare that the voucher program was a “failure” after one year?

Will Bob Mann admit that Obamacare is a failure? The employer mandate, one of the most critical pieces of that monstrosity, is being delayed for a year because of the impossibility of successfully implementing it without crashing the labor market – the monthly jobs figures show that because of Obamacare full-time jobs are becoming part-time jobs in America at an alarming rate.

Obamacare passed in 2010, which was three years ago. If Bob Mann can declare the school voucher program a dud in one year, surely he can do the same for Obamacare.

How come he has nothing to say about schools like Ruston Elementary, or Highland Elementary just a few blocks from his house in Baton Rouge and which we discussed in yesterday’s piece, which have been consistent failures for years if not decades?

Yes, yes. Stupid question. To demand that Mann apply the same rigorous standard to other public-sector ventures that he applies to the voucher program would be to demand a level of intellectual consistency one could never hope for from Kathleen Blanco’s chief media hack…or, as it happens, the chair of the journalism school at LSU.

But if nothing else, at least Mann managed to dredge up a little bit of traffic for some old Hayride posts which wouldn’t have gotten any otherwise. Perhaps we should thank him for that much, mendacity and all.

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