Sep 13, 2012

First Year of Expanded Choices for Families Exceeds Expectations

BATON ROUGE, La. - According to final enrollment data released by the Louisiana Department of Education today, 4,944 students across Louisiana enrolled in the Louisiana Scholarship Program.

"Parents deserve choices, especially parents in struggling schools who don’t have the money to consider another option," said John White, State Superintendent of Education. "In what is arguably the most important decision in a child’s life, more parents now have the ability to decide where their child goes to school."

Enrollment in Louisiana exceeded enrollment in states with similar programs, including Ohio and Indiana, much larger states by population. In the first year of the program, approximately 3,000 students in Ohio and 3,900 students in Indiana used a similar scholarship to attend the school of their choice.

Parents from Northlake Christian School in St. Tammany Parish applauded the program. One mom said, "I have never picked my child up from school and watched her face light up as she talked about her first day of school. I am going to find out tonight if she knows how to use the online grading system. I am so grateful that she is attending there this school year. Lunch was awesome she said and she did not eat alone. Thank you all for making this a good experience." Another parent commented, "Let me say that after the first day of school, my child said, ’Mom, I had a great day at school!’  On his second day he said, ’Mom, I hope they keep me here until I’m a senior!’ I wanted to cry.  It was amazing to hear him say that!!"

Today’s announcement concludes a multi-month process to determine school participation and student assignments. Nearly 10,400 students applied for a Student Scholarship for Educational Excellence under a four-year-old program begun in New Orleans and expanded statewide this year through Act 2 of the 2012 Regular Legislative Session. After determining school eligibility and slot availability, nearly 5,000 students are enrolled in the program. Scholarship enrollment numbers for the 2012-2013 school year reveal 14 percent of students came from public schools labeled a C, 69 percent from schools labeled a D, and 17 percent from schools labeled an F.

The scholarship program includes 118 schools, including one traditional public school and 117 non-public schools. In addition to students in the scholarship program, non-public schools educate about 14 percent of the total students in Louisiana and about 28 percent of students in New Orleans.

All students who received a scholarship were in families with incomes below 250 percent of the Federal poverty guideline, which is about $57,000 for a family of four. The majority of students who received a scholarship were minorities, including 86 percent African-American students. The majority of scholarships - 79 percent - were awarded to students attending elementary school.

The scholarship is free for students and will result in an estimated savings of $18 million to Louisiana taxpayers this year. Participating schools receive the cost of tuition or the equivalent of per-pupil funding for the school district, whichever is less. The average scholarship is $5,300, compared to average per-pupil funding at public schools of $8,500. By comparison, the state of Louisiana spends $980 million annually to fund public schools that earned a D or F letter grade.

Superintendent White added, "Empowering parents with a choice saves taxpayer dollars and uses state resources more efficiently, but most importantly, it is the right thing to do because parents know their children best, not government."

Research confirms the benefits of school choice in preparing students to succeed in college and careers. According to a recent study by the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution and the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, enrollment in college increased 24 percent for African-American students who received a scholarship to attend a private school.

For a list of scholarship enrollments by participating school, please click here.

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