20 Years of Charter Schools in Louisiana

Based on the news coverage surrounding the 10-year observance of Hurricane Katrina, it might be easy to believe that Louisiana’s charter school movement began in 2005.

Or, it wouldn’t be surprising if you thought Louisiana’s first charter schools came on the scene with creation of the Recovery School District in 2003, when the Legislature granted the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education the power to take over chronically low-performing schools.

This year, Louisiana is observing a charter school milestone. However, it’s not a 10 or 12-year anniversary. It was 20 years ago when Louisiana’s Charter School Law was originally enacted.

In 1995, Act 192 created a statewide pilot program that allowed up to eight school districts to volunteer to either grant charters to eligible groups or apply to operate a charter school themselves.

A year later, three charter schools opened in Jefferson, Terrebonne and Evangeline parishes. The state’s first charter school was the Jefferson Community School, an alternative school for students expelled from other Jefferson Parish schools for minor offenses.

Today, thanks to strong support from legislators, families and the public, Louisiana has more than 96,000 students enrolled in school choice programs.

  • More than 70,000 students are enrolled in 134 charter schools.
  • The Louisiana Scholarship Program enables more than 7,600 low-income students to attend a private school of their choice.
  • Louisiana’s Course Choice program allows more than 19,000 students to select from hundreds of online and face-to-face courses not offered by traditional schools.