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LA GATOR bill facing opposition from some parish school boards

3 months 3 weeks 6 days ago Thursday, March 21 2024 Mar 21, 2024 March 21, 2024 10:27 PM March 21, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

LIVINGSTON PARISH - On day one of the legislative session, Gov. Jeff Landry insisted he would put parents' choice first in their child's education track. Now, two bills allowing parents to send their children to private school with taxpayer money are moving through the capitol.

Sen. Rick Edmonds (R) says his bill aims to give parents access to higher performing private schools, but education leaders worry it could cost public schools millions. 

"We want parents to be making the choice for their children," Edmonds said.

The bill creates the LA GATOR program. It's an education savings account or ESA for parents to put $5,100 to $15,000 per year towards tuition or other education expenses. Over time, every student in Louisiana would become eligible.

Edmonds says the change would push Louisiana from the nation’s worst state in education.

"For years we've been in 47th, 48th, 49, and that's just not acceptable," Edmonds said.

Critics like Dannie Garrett, executive counsel for the Louisiana School Boards Association, worries money will be pulled away from public schools in need of help. 

"This proposal doesn't actually make any public schools better, and we think that really ought to be the focus," Garrett said.

A voucher program which allows low income students to attend higher rated schools already exists. LA GATOR would replace the existing program. Garrett says the average score for schools in the existing voucher program is a 52, just above an "F", whereas the average score for school districts in Louisiana is 78.5, a "B".

Unlike the existing voucher program, if the bill passes students accepted to the private schools will not be required to take the same standardized tests as public school students.

"Which means we won't be able to know if our dollars are being well spent," Garrett said.

That's part of the reason school boards across the state have came out opposed to the bill, but lawmaker Rick Edmonds says the choice should remain with the parents.

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