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Louisiana Lawmakers Have Innovative Opportunities to Increase Quality Education Options

• Patricia Levesque

This week is National Charter Schools Week, where we are celebrating the great work public charter schools across the country are doing to improve student learning.

When we look at states that exemplify leadership in charter school and school choice options that put students at the center of learning, Louisiana is at the head of the pack.

Louisiana continues to be a national charter school leader, educating nearly 60,000 students in 117 charter schools across 19 parishes. New Orleans, in particular, has seen dramatic results in student achievement, graduation rates and college readiness, thanks in large part to the thriving sector of charter schools that educate 80 percent of the city’s students.

Thanks to Louisiana’s creation of online charter schools and the more recent Course Choice program–hailed by many education reformers as a national model–Pelican State students are able to customize their education by taking online and blended classes.

And last year, the Louisiana Scholarship Program that allows students from underperforming schools the opportunity to attend private schools of their parents’ choice, increased enrollment by 38 percent. Nearly 94 percent of parents reported they were happy with their child’s academic progress, showing not only strong demand for this life-changing program, but robust satisfaction with the program as well.

This Session, lawmakers in Louisiana have opportunities to further provide innovative options for more students who desperately need assistance.

ExcelinEd is eager to highlight two such pieces of legislation, awaiting approval in the legislature, that would expand quality school options for families across the state:

  • Senate Bill 61, sponsored by Senator Ben Nevers, would eliminate geographic restrictions that keep children from better educational opportunities. Students trapped in failing schools rated D or F would be able to switch to any public schools rated A, B or C, regardless of their school zone or district. After passage in the Senate, the bill now awaits consideration in the House Education Committee.
  • House Bill 780, sponsored by Representative Kirk Talbot, would allow students participating in the Louisiana voucher program to seamlessly switch to the state’s tax-credit scholarship program. This gives voucher students the freedom to move to a school only participating in the tax-credit program and creates greater accessibility to the oversubscribed voucher program, which saw 12,000 applications for the 2014-15 school year – nearly double the current program participation. Clearly, Louisiana families want options. HB 780 creates more options for Louisiana students by ensuring portability between programs. After passage in the House, the bill now awaits consideration in the Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs.

At ExcelinEd, we believe families need the freedom for their children to attend the schools that meet their needs. All children have a right to a quality education and should not be relegated to failing schools simply because of their zip code or the amount of money in their parents’ bank account.

We know that when states provide robust school choice options, student achievement advances, and as a result, the number of failing schools declines. Louisiana’s rising student achievement proves that providing the best education options for individual students can drive success.

We hope that Louisiana will seize this opportunity to continue the state’s leadership in implementing reform policies that put students first.

About the author

Patricia Levesque @levesquepat

Patricia is the Chief Executive Officer for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She served as Governor Jeb Bush’s deputy chief of staff for education, enterprise solutions for government, minority procurement, and business and professional regulation. Previously, Patricia served six years in the Florida Legislature in the Speakers Office and as staff director over education policy. Contact Patricia at