Friday, April 20, 2012
EAGnews.org (Education Action Group)
BATON ROUGE – Thousands of students in Louisiana’s failing public schools will get other educational options after lawmakers significantly expanded the state’s private school voucher program this week.
The Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program will give low- and middle-income students access to vouchers statewide if they attend a public school that has received a grade of “C,” “D,” or “F” by Louisiana’s school accountability system, according to the Freidman Foundation for Educational Choice.
“States are realizing that choice works,” Friedman Foundation President Robert Enlow said in a news release after Gov. Bobby Jindal singed the program into law Wednesday. “The more that states can move from limited school choice to universal availability, the greater the benefits will be to those in need. Indiana is witnessing this now. So, too, will Louisiana.”
Louisiana began offering vouchers to special needs students in 2008, but eligibility was limited to New Orleans students is specific parishes. Under the new program, more than half of the state’s students will qualify for vouchers.
The move mirrors the expansion of Indiana’s voucher program in 2011, which allowed nearly 4,000 students to transfer to private schools of their choice, making it the largest first-year program in American history. According to the Friedman Foundation, 18 states and Washington D.C. currently provide private school choice through vouchers or the tax code.
The total grew significantly in 2011, “The Year of School Choice,” when 13 states increased school choice options for students. Eight new programs were created last year, and 11 existing laws were expanded, according to the Friedman Foundation.
The Louisiana voucher expansion follows increases in private school choice programs approved in Florida and Arizona so far this year.
“Through universally available vouchers, we fundamentally can change the way public education works, from a system that supports schools to a model that empowers students and parents,” Enlow said.