Expanded school choice program, which could help thousands of families across the state, builds momentum for educational options nationwide
Following historic bipartisan votes in the Louisiana legislature, Governor Bobby Jindal today signed into law one of the most sweeping school choice expansions in the nation, representing an enormous victory for low- and middle-income families from across the state.
The American Federation for Children (AFC)—the nation’s voice for school choice—applauded the governor, a bipartisan coalition of state legislators, and local grassroots advocates for their support of House Bill 976, which makes school vouchers available throughout the entire state of Louisiana for the first time. This victory represents a major step forward in a multi-year legislative battle waged by AFC and allied organizations that will expand eligibility for the highly-successful New Orleans voucher program to as many as 380,000 Louisiana children statewide.
The legislation calls for Louisiana families with household income of less than 250 percent of the federal poverty guideline to be eligible for the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) program if their children attend schools rated “C,” “D,” or “F” by the state.
“This is a great day for low-income children in Louisiana, whose parents will finally have the opportunity to give them the chance at an amazing education that they deserve,” said Kevin P. Chavous, senior adviser to AFC. “Thousands of students who were stuck in schools that were not working for them will now have an opportunity to attend a school that fits their needs and, ultimately, allows them to succeed.”
A signature part of Gov. Jindal’s 2012 legislative agenda, HB 976 marks a key victory for advocates of expanded educational options in both Louisiana and across the nation. Just four years removed from the creation of the SSEE program for New Orleans families, the Louisiana legislature sent the bill to the governor’s desk with notable bipartisan support, including a dozen Democratic votes in the House of Representatives and the support of nearly half of Senate Democrats.
AFC and its allied organizations—including the Louisiana Federation for Children (LFC) and the Louisiana chapter of the Black Alliance for Educational Options—have been at the forefront of this effort since 2007 when the SSEE program was enacted. AFC has worked to strengthen and expand access to school choice in Louisiana, educate and mobilize thousands of parents and supporters, and the LFC-led lobbying and advocacy effort engineered much of the significant bipartisan support that now exists for school choice in the state.
The victory in Louisiana continues a trend of remarkable growth of publicly-funded private school choice programs over the past year. Louisiana’s program is the second statewide voucher program that focuses on children from low-income families to be enacted in the past 12 months. The Choice Scholarship Program in Indiana became the largest first-year voucher program ever when it enrolled nearly 4,000 students last fall, joining a number of income-based statewide scholarship tax credit programs and voucher programs for children with special needs.
“Louisiana is just the latest among a growing number of states that have created new programs or expanded existing ones to help families most in need,” said Betsy DeVos, chairman of AFC. “School choice is an important and necessary part of meaningful education reform. As people see the success of these programs all across the country, the demand for school choice will only continue to grow.”
There are currently 27 publicly-funded private school choice programs serving more than 210,000 children across the country. Legislation passed in both chambers of the Virginia legislature is currently awaiting a signature from the state’s governor, and expansions to existing programs have already become law this year in Florida and Arizona.