Education Advocates: State Should Expand, Not Eliminate, School Choice for Low-Income Children

Education advocates today called on the state legislature to expand the New Orleans Scholarship Program and reverse the decision of the House Appropriations Committee, which yesterday stripped funding for the popular school voucher program that benefits children from low-income families.

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Baton Rouge, LA (PRWEB) May 20, 2011

Education advocates today called on the state legislature to expand the New Orleans Scholarship Program and reverse the decision of the House Appropriations Committee, which yesterday stripped funding for the popular school voucher program that benefits children from low-income families.

The Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options (Louisiana BAEO) said that with demand for scholarships at an all-time high, the state should seriously consider expanding the New Orleans Scholarship Program (also referred to as the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence program) within New Orleans and across the state. Slashing or eliminating the program would effectively turn back the clock on education reform in Louisiana, BAEO officials said today.

"There is nothing more important to the future of Louisiana than the education of our children, and cutting a state budget at the expense of low-income children is sorely misguided," said Dr. Monteic Sizer, director of Louisiana BAEO. "Governor Jindal's original budget provided for a modest expansion of the New Orleans Scholarship Program, and we call on the legislature to adopt that budget-which provides additional funding so that more children can receive scholarships to attend the schools of their parents' choice."

At a sign-up period for the scholarship program in February, hundreds of parents were denied scholarships for their children because they either did not live within Orleans Parish or sent their children to underperforming schools that were no longer designated as being "academically unacceptable." Louisiana BAEO has joined with low-income families to demand that the scholarship program be available to all children from low-income families.

"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," Sizer said. “Studies have demonstrated that the program is overwhelmingly popular, with 93 percent of parents with children in the program expressing satisfaction with their children’s schools.”

The New Orleans Scholarship Program, which was enacted with strong bipartisan support in 2008, provides scholarships for 1,654 children to attend private schools this year; 1,943 scholarships have already been awarded for the 2011-2012 school year, and 165 students are currently on a waiting list. To qualify for the program, a family must reside in Orleans Parish. In addition, the student's household income cannot exceed 250 percent of the 2011 federal poverty guideline. The SSEE program offers state-funded scholarships of up to $7,562.

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