The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, approved a new set of academic standards Tuesday for private schools participating in Louisiana’s expanded voucher program. By a vote of 9 to 2, the 11-member panel 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 public funding, though only if they take 40 or more students through the program.
The plan sparked heated debate among board members, with Lottie Beebe, from St. Martin Parish, and Carolyn Hill, from Baton Rouge, twice trying to get the decision put off until White could come back with tougher standards. Hill compared the board’s vote to Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, warning that “evil is going to arise” from the board’s decision.
Chas Roemer, a board member who also represents parts of Baton Rouge, offered the most full-throated support for White, calling the vote “one of our proudest moments as a board.”