Governor Bobby Jindal and State Superintendent of Schools John White announced today that the Louisiana Department of Education has successfully matched nearly 8,000 students with the school of their choice in the Louisiana Scholarship Program. These 8,000 first-round offers mark nearly 3,000 more scholarships offered to students than in 2012. Roughly 12,000 families across the state expressed interest in participating in the Louisiana Scholarship Program this spring, up from approximately 10,000 families in 2012.
Governor Jindal said, "One of the most important things we have done to ensure the continued prosperity of our state and our people is to pass landmark reforms to make sure that every child has the opportunity to get a great education. If we truly want to improve economic development, if we truly want to improve health care outcomes and lower our incarceration rates, it all comes back to providing our children with a better education. That's why last year we stood together to declare that the state of our education system was unacceptable.
"The status quo simply wasn't working, and our kids deserved better. Indeed, 44 percent of Louisiana schools were rated D's or F's, we were spending nearly a billion dollars on failing schools, and one-third of our students were not performing at grade level. The bottom line is that our kids only get one chance to grow up and we couldn't wait for reform any longer. We took a giant step forward by passing landmark reforms to empower parents, give families more choices, make sure the dollars follow the child, and give every child the opportunity to get a great education.
"Notably, we expanded the scholarship program statewide that started right here in New Orleans. The scholarship program works and you can find examples of success right here in New Orleans. In fact, the scholarship schools have shown significantly more academic growth than schools statewide. The percentage of third graders in the scholarship program demonstrating proficiency in math is up 23 percentage points compared to two points statewide, and in English, the percentage is up 12 points compared to three points statewide. The bottom line is that choice works, and that's why we wanted to expand the scholarship program statewide."
The scholarship program is saving taxpayer dollars. In this year alone, the scholarship program saved taxpayers $18 million. Parents are also very satisfied with the program. A recent survey conducted by the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the Louisiana Federation for Children showed that 92.5 percent of the parents of scholarship students were very satisfied with the program and 93.6 percent of parents are very satisfied with their children's academic progress.
"Every family deserves the chance to send their child to the school of their choice," said State Superintendent John White, "Over the next weeks and months, the Department will continue to work with participating schools and families to ensure as many students as possible are placed in their preferred school and that families are empowered with the ability to choose where their child is educated."
The increased interest statewide has prompted a second round of the application process. Second round applications will be available to families on May 6 and due on May 24. The Department will begin notifying families of the second round results the week of June 10. This second round will be open to all eligible families, including those who applied in Round 1. Families that applied in Round 1, but did not receive a scholarship do not need to reapply; they will be automatically considered for a match in Round 2. If a family would like to change their preferences on their application, they should reapply.
The Department is working to finalize the list of schools that will participate in Round 2. In the first round, nearly 8,000 students were matched to 128 schools across 32 parishes. These matches were based on geographic and grade level availability and families' preferred school on their application.
"I'm a single mother, and I don't have any means to send my son to a private school. At his new school, the teacher called me right back and spoke with me for 45 minutes. It just showed me that they care. She took the time out to let me know very specific things about how he's doing, and that she's working with my son," said Shelly Stabile, whose son attends Northlake Christian Academy in Covington.
"My daughter is extremely excited to go to school every day. Now, she can't wait to do homework every night. It's just a miracle. Without it, she would be lost," said Angela Atkinson, whose daughter attends Greater Baton Rouge Hope Academy in Baton Rouge.
"Everybody knows him. It's more like a family. I believe education is the foundation setting Elias to go wherever he wants to go. In my opinion, they are giving him everything he needs," said Coretta Pittman, whose son attends Good Shepherd of the Nativity School in New Orleans.