Louisiana

Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program

  • Voucher
  • Enacted 2008
  • Launched 2008

The Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program (formerly known as the Louisiana Scholarship Program), which aims to serve low-income students in “low-performing” public schools, is the state’s first school voucher program. Learn more about the program’s details on this page, including eligibility, funding, regulations, legal history and more.

We do not administer this program.

  • 6,405

    Participating Students (2019–20)

  • 33%

    of Students Eligible Statewide

  • 131

    Participating Schools (2019–20)

  • $6,325

    Average Voucher Value (2019-20)

  • 50%

    Value as a Percentage of Public School Per-student Spending

Louisiana Scholarship Program Participation

Students Participating
School Year Ending

Student Funding

The voucher is equal to the lesser of the total state allocation per student in the student’s home school district or the tuition charged by the private school. Schools that accept students using the voucher may not charge those students more than non-voucher students. Students requiring special educational services are eligible for additional voucher funds equal to the federal special education funding in their home districts.

Student Eligibility

Students are eligible if their family income is no more than 250 percent of the federal poverty line ($65,500 for a family of four in 2020–21) and they either (1) attended a public school designated as C, D or F in the previous year, (2) are entering kindergarten or (3) were enrolled at a public school in the Recovery School District. If more students apply than the program’s capacity and funding allow, participation is determined by random lottery. If a particular private school is oversubscribed under the program, the state department of education must conduct a randomized lottery to award seats in that school. In that lottery, students from public schools rated D or F receive priority over students from public schools rated C.

EdChoice Expert Feedback

Louisiana’s voucher for low-income students helps thousands of students access schools that are the right fit for them, but policymakers could do more to expand educational opportunity.

Eligibility for the scholarships is limited to students from families earning up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level ($64,375 for a family of four in 2019–20) in areas that have low-performing district schools. About 33 percent of Louisiana students are eligible to receive a scholarship, but only 1.0 percent of students participate in one of Louisiana’s private educational choice options (including the Tuition Donation Credit Program and the School Choice Program for Certain Students with Exceptionalities).

The average scholarship size is about $6,400, which is about 50 percent of the average expenditure per student at Louisiana’s district schools.

In order to expand access to educational choice, Louisiana policymakers should increase the voucher amounts to be comparable with the per-pupil spending at district schools and expand eligibility to all students. At the very least, eligibility should not be tied to the performance of district schools on standardized tests. The program could also be converted into an education savings account to ensure that all students have access to the education that’s the right fit for them, whether private school or a customized course of education.

Louisiana’s voucher program has some unnecessary and counterproductive regulations. For example, the program requires voucher students in certain grades to take the state’s standardized test. Instead of mandating a single test, policymakers should allow parents and schools to choose from a variety of nationally norm-referenced tests. Policymakers should also amend the program so that it no longer interferes with schools’ admissions standards.

Rules and Regulations

  • Income Limit: 250 percent x Poverty
  • Prior Year Public School Requirement: Conditional
  • Geographic Limit: Statewide
  • Enrollment Cap: None
  • Voucher Cap: 100 percent of state allocation
  • Testing Mandates: State
  • Budget Cap: $41.9 million

School Requirements:

  • Be approved by the state to participate
  • Comply with health and safety codes
  • Not discriminate on the basis of race, color or national origin
  • Use an open admissions process when enrolling scholarship recipients
  • Administer all Louisiana state examinations required under the school and district accountability system
  • Receive a Scholarship Cohort Index of at least 50 to remain eligible to accept new students
  • Submit to the state an annual independent financial audit conducted by a certified public accountant
  • Conduct criminal background checks on all school employees
  • Maintain a curriculum of quality at least equal to that prescribed for public schools

Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program State Groups

That Support School Choice

The Louisiana Federation for Children is affiliated with American Federation for Children. This organization seeks to empower families, especially lower-income families, with the freedom to choose the best K–12 education for their children.

The Louisiana Department of Education provides information and links to approved school tuition organizations that award students private school scholarships.