Nearly 5,000 Students Enrolled In Expanded Statewide Voucher Program

From a release by the Louisiana Federation for Children…

Fewer children are trapped in underperforming schools this fall, after nearly 5,000 students accepted scholarships to participate in Louisiana’s statewide voucher program, representing one of the largest single-year enrollment increases in the history of voucher programs nationwide.

The American Federation for Children—the nation’s voice for school choice—praised the enrollment figures, which were released Thursday by the state Department of Education, as a victory for Louisiana students and parents. In total, 4,944 students are participating in the program in the 2012-13 school year at 118 schools across the state.

That’s more than twice the number of students who were enrolled in the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) program last year, when the program only served students who attended failing schools in New Orleans.

“These figures are great news for parents, students, and everyone across Louisiana who is committed to giving families access to the full slate of educational options,” said Kevin P. Chavous, senior advisor to the Federation. “Thanks to Governor Jindal, Louisiana legislators, Superintendent John White and his team, thousands more parents in Louisiana are no longer at the mercy of their ZIP code when it comes to choosing the best education for their children.”

More than 10,300 students applied for scholarships this year, after bipartisan supporters in the legislature sent the statewide expansion of the SSEE program to the Governor’s desk in April of this year. During the 2011-12 school year, more than 1,800 students received scholarships for the program in New Orleans. A total of 86 percent of this year’s program participants are African American, the Department said.

The newly-expanded program is expected to save Louisiana taxpayers an estimated $18 million dollars this year. Louisiana currently spends almost $1 billion annually on public schools earning a “D” or “F” letter grade.

Prior to the Governor’s slate of education reforms being enacted, Louisiana ranked among the lowest-performing states in the nation, underscoring the need for immediate and expanded options for low-income families whose children were trapped in failing schools.

Chavous cautioned that while many students are beginning this year at the school of their parents’ choice, there are still thousands of other Louisiana families who are without access to a high-quality education.

“This is a win for many Louisiana families, but there’s much more work to be done,” Chavous said.

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