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Education Department’s Plan to End Wait for Scholarship Families

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Louisiana Education Superintendent John White has sent a letter to the Legislative Budget Committee outlining a plan to end the wait for parents who participate in what’s known as the Voucher Program.

According to the Education Department’s website, the Louisiana Scholarship Program empowers low-income families with the same opportunity that more affluent parents already have — the financial resources to send their child to the school of their choice.

To be eligible for a Scholarship, students must have a family income that does not exceed 250% of the federal poverty guidelines and must be entering kindergarten or enrolled in a public school with a C, D, or F grade.

The Scholarship Program gives these families a seat in a qualified private school. But White said the program is underfunded for the current school year.

“As of today, there are 362 low-income children whose parents have chosen a non-public school as of last winter or spring,” White said. “They are sitting on a waiting list, however, still waiting for a slot to potentially open up in those schools, because of the cap that was put on the funding for the Scholarship Program.”

Public schools, though, continue to be funded. If they’re underfunded, the legislature will come back in the spring and make adjustments. White calls it unfair that the legislature will fund the school choice the parents didn’t want, and not fund the choice they did want.

White said the Education Department has put together an emergency plan for the scholarship families.

“Under this plan, schools that have students on the waiting list may enroll [them] if the school agrees in writing to accept a worst-case scenario nominal payment from the state of less than $100 per child for the entire year,” White said. “In the spring, when the legislature convenes, they will — as they always do — analyze the count of students in public schools, and if the budget did not have a high enough count, they will appropriate more money.”

The department will ask at that time for the legislature to conduct a similar analysis of the Scholarship Program, and commit appropriate funding for those schools, as well.

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