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Voucher Program Set to Grow Despite Court Battle

Applications for vouchers are available for the upcoming school year. The statewide program is continuing into its second year.

A district court judge ruled in November that the voucher program could not be funded with the same pool of money that supports public education in Louisiana.

It’s costing about $25 million to send more than 4,900 students to private and parochial schools this year including $13 million that would have otherwise been allocated to public school districts.
State Superintendent John White says he’s been talking with lawmakers about how to pay for the vouchers should the Supreme Court uphold the lower court ruling.

“The overwhelming view is we should support these families but should not add an additional cost to our state. And so finding a way to fund this in a way that is cost neutral would be critical.”  

White says schools haven’t been scared away from the voucher program by the financial uncertainty. Of the 118 schools participating this year, just three are dropping out for reasons other than the litigation. And 19 schools have been added to the list.  

About half of the nearly 10,000 students who applied for a voucher last year ultimately got a seat. The department is hoping to accommodate more this year. But, it won’t say how many until April when it makes initial offers to students.

The department of education ran into trouble last year when it turned out one school in Ruston didn’t have the space or the teachers to accommodate all the students it was approved to take on. The quality of approved schools was also called into question when it appeared some were teaching creationism to the exclusion of evolution theory.

This time around, renewing schools could be booted from the list based on state test scores due out in May.