"Louisiana's Loch Ness mythology"

The Baton Rouge Advocate (August 16, 2012) editorially excoriated Louisiana's controversial new voucher program for its funding of schools that "not only teach creationist nonsense, but are proud of it." As NCSE previously reported, the voucher program uses public school funds to pay for tuition and certain fees at private schools for students who attend low-performing public schools and whose family income is below 250% of the federal poverty level. But as Zack Kopplin told the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education at its July 2012 meeting, at least 19 of the 119 schools slated to benefit from the program apparently teach creationism instead of or along with evolution.

As a result, as Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, a founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science, and a member of NCSE's board of directors, told the Advocate, "What [students] are going to be getting financed with public money is phony science. They're going to be getting religion instead of science." Alluding to a textbook published by Accelerated Christian Education, the editorial noted, "Among the dubious assertions of creationist pseudo-science is that evolution is called into question by sightings of the Loch Ness monster, a 'dinosaur' living in the modern age — according to those who believe in the Loch Ness myth."

Quoting the state superintendent of schools, John White, as saying "If students are failing the test, we're going to intervene, and the test measures evolution," the editorial retorted, "The state has no intention, apparently, of launching any serious investigation of the Loch Ness monster in school curriculums. Instead, it will pay and pay, for years, and — if students do poorly on science tests at some future date — the state Department of Education might raise the question of why mythology is part of a school’s curriculum," adding, "A more-effective way would be for the department to open its eyes to this kind of educational malpractice before children’s futures are endangered."

The voucher program is presently under legal challenge from the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers along with a number of local school boards. But the issue of the state's funding the teaching of creationism is not part of the challenge. Rather, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune (July 10, 2012) explained, "Two key issues are at play in the voucher suit: whether providing private schools with money from the Minimum Foundation Program violates the [Louisiana state] constitution by redirecting those funds from public schools, and whether a last-minute vote setting the new MFP formula in place received enough support in the state House to carry the force of law."