Author(s): Matthew Ladner
Louisiana has emerged as one of the most fascinating states in the nation for education reform. The state’s creative response to rebuilding the New Orleans education system in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is now considered a potential model for reformers across the nation. Gov. Bobby Jindal has carried the reforms further in pushing for “opportunity scholarship” vouchers in New Orleans, the grading of public schools A-F, and an effort to curtail social promotion of children needing additional reading intervention.
More recently, Gov. Jindal called for the adoption of one of the boldest parental choice measures ever: expanding the scholarship program statewide. Designed to help low- and middle-income families in underperforming public schools, this program would empower more parents to choose the best schools for their children.
In considering this proposal, Louisiana policymakers would benefit from studying the policy success of a neighboring state. Florida got a big head start on Louisiana in enacting reform, and the Sunshine State’s success proves that Louisiana can do better. Gov. Jindal’s 2012 choice initiative resembles a bolder version of one of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s signature reforms: the A+ Opportunity Scholarship Program. The figures to follow demonstrate that the Florida program helped in improving the academic performance of struggling Florida public schools.
Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams will demonstrate the benefits of Florida’s head start in adopting a comprehensive set of education reforms. In addition, evidence regarding the efficacy of parental choice programs around the nation will be provided.
Louisiana has adopted some key elements of the Florida reform strategy as part of the Pelican State’s overall K-12 reform effort. The adoption of one the nation’s largest parental choice plans will only help spur further improvement for students in need of more effective learning environments.
Enacted 2008 • Launched 2008
Louisiana provides an individual tax deduction for educational expenses, including private
school tuition and fees, uniforms, textbooks, curricular materials, and any supplies required by
the school. The deduction also includes tuition and fees at university-run “lab schools,” as well
as educational expenses for public schools and students whose parents choose homeschooling
Enacted 2010 • Launched 2011
Louisiana allows students with disabilities in eligible parishes to receive vouchers to attend
schools of their parents’ choosing that provide educational services specifically addressing
their needs. Eligible students are defined generally as those with special needs who have
Individualized Education Plans but who are not in an accelerated or gifted and talented
Enacted 2008 • Launched 2008
Louisiana’s statewide voucher program is available to low-income students in low-performing
public schools. Prior to 2012, eligibility was limited to students in specific districts and parishes.