Louisiana is Ready for School Choice

(By Scott Simon, former State Representative and current State Director of Americans for Prosperity-Louisiana) — Louisiana learners are ready for opportunities that meet their needs in the classroom and set them up for a bright future. With strong leadership from the Governor’s office and State Legislature, we are positioned pass policies this session that ensure we’re keeping up with the evolving demands of Louisiana families.

We have the exciting opportunity to advance transformational policies that can improve the lives of our children and empower families through universal Education Scholarship Accounts (ESAs). This program will eliminate barriers many families face in accessing educational opportunities and chart a new path by empowering parents to make choices that benefit their children.

ESAs allow parents to use public funds allocated for their child’s education to pay for a variety of educational expenses, such as tuition, tutoring services, micro-schools, or even home-based schooling. For families seeking alternative education options, ESAs provide parents with the ability to direct their child’s education funding to the schools or educational services that best meet their unique capabilities.

Kids deserve a robust marketplace of options because with more options comes more opportunities to find their interests, discover talents, and be in the environment that works best for them.

Data shows Louisiana is moving in the direction of transformational change to education with 72% of parents saying they considered new schools for their children in 2023. This trend is reflected in the increased enrollment in charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling.

Increasingly, parents recognize that education is not a one-size-fits-all model and look for the best place for their child to learn. In fact, over two-thirds of parents surveyed acknowledged that the same school type didn’t even work well for all the children in their own family.

We heard a direct account of this when Holly Terei, a mother of four living in Georgia, testified in the Senate Education committee. With two of her four children on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), her oldest attends an online state charter school with an IEP, while her next child is enrolled in a self-contained autism classroom tailored to his needs, at a non-zoned high school.

Terei shared that her eldest daughter benefits from a tax-credit scholarship at a private school, and her youngest is attending their zoned public elementary school. Driven by gratitude for the educational choices available to her own children, Terei felt compelled to travel to Louisiana and fight for the implementation of school choice policies in our state.

By offering her family’s story, Terei underscored the importance of parent agency in education and the positive impact that empowering families can have. She ended her testimony by urging the committee to, “Believe and trust that parents know what’s best for their children.”

Economic and districting barriers too often limit Louisiana families’ ability to provide their children with an education that meets their needs. By passing the LA GATOR Scholarship bill like the House did, the Senate can embrace the fact that different students have unique learning styles, needs, and aspirations and ensure resources are available to support students without creating additional burdens on our public education system.

States that have successfully implemented ESAs, such as Florida, have managed to improve academic performance while spending close to $10,000 per student annually whereas Louisiana spends $11,600.

A thriving education marketplace fosters a new sense of innovation and accountability where all schools have the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to provide high-quality education to maintain enrollment. This motivates schools to invest in resources, develop specialized programs, and implement strategies to meet the diverse needs of students.

By igniting a wave of innovation, Louisiana can reclaim its educational outcomes and empower both children and teachers to thrive in the environment that best meets their needs. The potential benefits of this approach encompass not only academic excellence but also the empowerment of all stakeholders through enhanced choice, flexibility, and empowerment.

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