Legislation will dramatically increase educational options for Louisiana children
With significant bipartisan support, the Louisiana legislature today passed a comprehensive statewide school choice bill creating a vast expansion of the publicly funded private school choice program in New Orleans as well as one of the most expansive school choice programs in the nation, marking a historic victory for Louisiana’s low- and middle-income families.
The Louisiana Federation for Children—which has been a leading voice in the fight for expanded educational options in Louisiana since before the creation of the state’s first voucher program four years ago—hailed the bill’s passage and praised the legislative champions that helped advance the sweeping school choice measure.
“This is an extraordinary moment for Louisiana, and we commend Governor Jindal and the state legislators for their bold leadership to ensure families are provided with the quality educational options they have long awaited,” said Eddie Rispone, chairman of the Louisiana Federation for Children (LFC). “Today marks the beginning of a bright future for our state, but, more importantly, the beginning of a brighter future for thousands of children who will now be given the opportunity to succeed through a high-quality education.”
House Bill 976 calls for a statewide expansion of the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) voucher program, which currently is limited to Orleans Parish. The bill passed both the House and Senate with significant bipartisan support, earning a dozen Democratic votes in the House and the support of almost half of Senate Democrats.
While the SSEE program currently is open to children of families making less than 250 percent of the federal poverty guideline who attend schools rated “F” by the state, the new legislation expands that criteria to include qualified students who attend “C” or “D” schools and live elsewhere in Louisiana, making as many as 380,000 children eligible to participate.
LFC played a critical role in the advocacy effort for the legislation, including mobilizing thousands of parents and supporters to contact their legislators in support of passage. For well more than five years, LFC and its coalition allies have been a prominent voice for school choice throughout the state, working to advance meaningful choice legislation and garner significant statewide support from a bipartisan coalition of legislators and grassroots advocates.
The legislation includes key provisions that will ensure established accountability standards for participating private schools that accept voucher students. In addition to providing quality private school options to children from low- and middle-income families, the legislation also creates a “parent trigger” for failing schools, expands pathways to create high-quality charter schools, and establishes a per course provider program.
The bill also provides administrators and traditional public schools with an important opportunity to become innovative and creative through the competition created by expanded choice. “These schools now have a great potential to compete and improve Louisiana’s traditional public school system,” said LFC Chairman Rispone.
House Bill 976 is now headed to the desk of Governor Bobby Jindal to be signed into law. Jindal, who deemed education reform his top priority this legislative session, has been a driving force behind the wide-ranging reform plan.