Enacted 2008 • Launched 2008 • Voucher
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.
Latest Stats (2012-13)
- Students participating: 4,944
- Schools participating: 118
- Average voucher value: $5,300
Average voucher value as a percentage of
Louisiana’s total per-student spending ($10,701)
The voucher is equal to 90 percent of the total state and local funding per student in the
student’s home school district, or the tuition charged by the private school, whichever is less.
That amount may not exceed the maximum tuition charged to non-voucher students. Special
education students get an additional amount added to their voucher equal to the federal (but
not state and local) special education funding in their home districts.
Students are eligible if their family income is no more than 250 percent of the federal poverty
line and they either attended a public school designated as C, D, or F in the previous year, are
entering kindergarten, or were enrolled at a public school in the Recovery School District. If
more students apply than the program will allow, participation will be determined by random
lottery. If a particular private school is oversubscribed under the program, the department
has to conduct a randomized lottery. In that lottery, students from public schools rated D or F
receive priority over students from public schools rated C.
On June 7, 2012, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit in a Baton Rouge state court (the 19th Judicial District). The lawsuit alleges that the voucher expansion in 2012 violates state constitutional provisions requiring school funds to be “equitably allocated to parish and city school systems,” that laws be passed by a two-thirds majority after a certain point in a legislative session, and that laws receive support from a majority of legislative members (not just of those voting).
Rules & Regulations
- Income Limit: 250% x Poverty
- Geographic Limit: None
- Enrollment Cap: None
- Voucher Cap: None
- Testing Mandates: Yes - State
On a yearly basis, the Louisiana Department of Education is required to publish a list of all public schools with a letter grade of C, D, or F. As for participating private schools, the department must publish average proficiency rates on state assessments for voucher recipients, the graduation rate for voucher recipients at each participating school (or rate at which they finish the highest grade level), the retention rate for voucher recipients, and the percentage of parents who are satisfied with the private schools. By August 1, 2012, the department must develop an “accountability system for participating students at participating schools.”
Private schools that have been approved (whether provisionally or probationally) for fewer than two years are not allowed to enroll voucher students exceeding 20 percent of the school’s enrollment.
Private schools are prohibited from discriminating against students with special needs, but are not required to provide any services other than those that it already provides or that it can provide with “minor adjustments.” Private schools can “partner with the local school system to provide special education services.”
In order to receive any higher payment for special education students, private schools must have demonstrated the capacity to serve such students. To demonstrate such capacity, the private school must have provided the relevant special education services for at least two years prior to program participation, and must have teachers holding the relevant certification. The department is required to tell parents prior to enrollment about what special education services any given private school can provide, as well as the services provided by the local public school system to its students or to private school students.
Louisiana Revised Statutes, Title 17, Chapter 43, §§ 4011 et seq.
Robbie Rhinesmith | firstname.lastname@example.org
Louisiana House Bill 976 (2012), which expanded eligibility statewide, is available here: http://legiscan.com/gaits/text/630612.