Louisiana parents take center stage in fight for school choice

In the battle to fully fund the Louisiana Scholarship Program, parents were front and center as advocates for the program that allows their children to escape underperforming schools by attending the participating private school of their choice.

During three legislative sessions, which included two special sessions, parents went to the state Capitol on numerous occasions to testify in support of the program. Parents and grandparents were often joined by their children and grandchildren to share stories of how the Louisiana Scholarship Program positively impacted their lives.

Carla Moye, whose granddaughter Arielle attends Gardere Community Christian School in Baton Rouge, told the Senate Finance Committee that she is now performing at the mastery level on standardized tests.

“Arielle has a dream for a better future because she has choice,” said Moye.

Senate Finance screen cap

During an April press conference in the state Capitol, parents demanded Governor John Bel Edwards provide full funding for the parental choice program.

The final legislative session ended with lawmakers adopting a $40 million budget – less than the $42 million provided in 2015.

“We are disappointed in the reduction of funding for the program that may put a child’s education and future in jeopardy. Failure to adequately fund this program means hundreds of students who have accepted scholarships for the upcoming school year will now be placed on a wait list,” said Ann Duplessis, president of the Louisiana Federation for Children.

Duplessis said pDSC_0988 webarents’ testimony about the importance of the Scholarship program helped convince lawmakers to increase funding from Gov. Edwards’ initial budget proposal of $36 million to $40 million.

“We are very pleased that empowered and engaged parents from across the state joined us during each of the three legislative sessions to let their voices be heard. Their message was clear. The Louisiana Scholarship Program provides them access to a high-quality education in a safe and secure learning environment.”

Created in 2008 and expanded statewide in 2012, the Louisiana Scholarship Program allows low-income families with students in failing public schools or students entering kindergarten for the first time to transfer to the private school of their choice.