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  • School Choice at Risk in New Orleans

    Over the last several weeks, students, families, and advocates of education reform have witnessed exciting steps forward by numerous states to expand education options. Arizona, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Utah (among others) have implemented strategies to expand school choice and give children greater hope for a quality education.

    Unfortunately, Louisiana may be going in just the opposite direction by attempting to eliminate the only school choice program in the state. The Louisiana House Appropriations Committee has proposed to cut funding for the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence program, which provides scholarships for low-income New Orleans students.

    According to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), the scholarship program, enacted in 2008, provides nearly 1,700 low-income students in New Orleans scholarships to attend private schools of their choice. Roughly 2,000 have already been awarded scholarships for the 2011–2012 school year, with 165 more children on the waiting list.

    The House Appropriations Committee reasons that cutting funding is a step toward reducing state spending. Yet getting rid of a cost-effective school choice program is not the way forward. Compared to Louisiana public schools, which spend on average over $10,000 per pupil annually, the scholarship program costs just over half the price per pupil in the public schools at approximately $6,000 for each scholarship.

    Cutting the program would mean forcing hundreds of students to leave their schools despite the overwhelming rate of satisfaction and the high demand for the program among parents of scholarship students.

    Said one mother of a New Orleans scholarship student:

    With the choice program, I can send my child to the school of my choice. He’s learning on his level. The discipline is more stable.… Every child should have this opportunity, this chance to excel.

    Like Louisiana’s program, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP) has provided thousands of children the opportunity to leave underperforming schools to attend private schools of their choice. And the outcomes indicate great success: significantly higher rates of DCOSP students graduate from high school—91 percent, compared to 70 percent of their peers—parents are more satisfied with their children’s schools, and D.C. residents voice strong approval for the program. Just like D.C.’s program, scholarships for New Orleans students can mean the chance for a brighter future.

    Dr. Monteic Sizer, director of Louisiana BAEO stated:

    With tens of thousands of Louisiana children confined to underperforming schools, the state legislature can provide hope and opportunity to low-income children by expanding the New Orleans Scholarship Program this year.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to School Choice at Risk in New Orleans

    1. Derek, Rock Hill, SC says:

      True to form, something works better than the public schools and the State, under the guise of "cutting spending" and at the behest of the powerful teacher's lobby, wants the program cut. By the way, the N.O. scholarship program is 40% cheaper compared to the public schools.

    2. Norma Clark Columbia says:

      I agree that these children who get these programs are better off, however, what about all children getting the same opportunity. We know that private schools offer better results with lower fees, however we continue down the same road. This only presents an opportunity for a few why not for all. If all cannot be given the same opportunity then none should be allowed. This may seem harsh, but it is a crime what we are allowing with the public schools in America. Their results are terrible and we still continue to pour money into black holes. (NJ just did this. The courts should have no say in such matters. I'm terrible disappointed in Christy for not standing his ground on this one.

      • Kyle says:

        Please tell me your kidding – if everyone cannot have the same opportunity then no one should get it? A. That's insane because even if you promised to give that opportunity there aren't enough great schools at scale. B. That stands in the face of everything America was founded on. It is akin to saying that because every poor kid can't get a scholarship to Yale no one should get to. C. You would rather let 1,700 kids go to worse schools than have whoever we can get into good schools, prove what's possible, eventually expand to offer the opportunity to more kids. My jaw drops hearing such a statement from someone who clearly cares about kids.

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