Parents Love Louisiana’s School Choice Program

In late June, the Louisiana Federation for Children (LFC) released the remarkable findings from its annual Parental Satisfaction Survey regarding the Pelican State’s new school choice programs. The organization, which works in cooperation with the Black Alliance for Educational Opportunities (BAEO), found that families overwhelmingly support the initiative and find that their children are excelling because of it.

BAEO, which advocates for “parental choice on behalf of low-income and working-class black families,” and LFC surveyed more than 1,500 families participating in Louisiana’s school choice programs. They discovered that:

  • 91.2 percent of parents are happy with their child’s scholarship school.
  • 91.6 percent of parents believe that the program benefits their child academically.
  • 99.1 percent of parents say their child feels safe in his/her scholarship school.
  • 98.4 percent of parents say their children feel welcome at their child’s current scholarship school.

According to LFC, more than 13,000 Louisiana children applied for the state’s school choice program for the 2014-2015 school year alone. 7,632 students received scholarships to attend 131 schools in 47 school districts across Louisiana.

In 2008, a bipartisan group of legislators – led principally by conservatives and African American reformers – established the Louisiana Scholarship Program. Since its inception, thousands of children have been saved from failing public schools and, instead, enrolled in thriving educational institutions. The scholarship opportunity is available strictly for low-income families, and 89 percent of participants are minorities.

Jai_and_Jakeria_Tremekia

Jakiera, left, and brother Jai, right, were both in failing public schools but have made tremendous strides at their charter school. | Photo: Louisiana Federation for Children

Louisiana’s school choice system has yielded extraordinary results. A student who previously attended a failing high school has graduated from Lutheran High School in Metairie as its salutatorian, and she will attend college on a scholarship. A middle schooler who was previously stuck at a first grade reading level is now at a 6th grade reading level alongside his classmates, and his dyslexic sister is getting the help she needs to succeed, too.

Another parent, Rolando Pascual, marvels at the marked academic improvements of his children, Maria and Alexa, who now love learning and complete their homework without his prodding. He credits the school choice program for giving his family access to St. Joseph’s School, which has provided them with quality instruction and discipline, despite his inability to pay.

“I have sacrificed a lot for my children, but I could not afford a private education on my own,” Pascual said. “I feel thankful because this scholarship program is one of God’s blessings to us.”

“I don’t have to sit at home and wonder if my child is being mistreated or if someone is paying attention or listening to her, because I know they are”

As of 2011, half of Louisiana’s public schools were deemed “failing” by the state’s superintendent of education. 1 in 4 of the state’s high school students will drop out before graduating, and the Pelican State has a significantly lower graduation rate than the national average.

For so many impoverished families, the school choice program offers their children a chance at economic mobility and academic fulfillment by attending educational institutions that will set them on a better path in life. These schools are safe, instill discipline and provide optimism to students who must often face difficult circumstances in life.

“To know that someone loves your child is wonderful. I don’t have to sit at home and wonder if my child is being mistreated or if someone is paying attention or listening to her, because I know they are,” Betty Williams, a school choice parent, told LFC. “These people genuinely love my child. They are truly about giving kids an education. Any way they can help a kid out, they’re willing to do it.”

Ellen Carmichael is a Senior Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter at @ellencarmichael.

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