Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has signed into law an expansion of the state's school voucher program. The vouchers will allow parents to use government funding for their choice of private school tuition. The increasingly popular conceptual program was an idea pioneered by Milton Friedman in 1955 and has gained traction since its 1990 introduction in Milwaukee and the increasing realization that the current school system has failed so alternatives must be trialed. Now, 18 states provide some degree of private school choice either through voucher programs or the tax code. Last year Indiana made more than half its student population eligible for a similar program and Louisiana has now joined them.
In Louisiana, vouchers have been available since 2008, but only to New Orleans children and students with special needs in eligible parishes. In the 2012-13 school year, the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program will allow low- and middle-income students statewide to receive vouchers if they are enrolled in public schools graded "C," "D," or "F" by Louisiana's accountability system.
Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice is enthusiastic that states throughout the country are starting to realize that school choice works:
"Through the growth we saw in 2011 and the momentum we're witnessing in 2012, our country is moving closer to Milton Friedman's vision of school choice for all families," Enlow added. "Through universally available vouchers, we fundamentally can change the way public education works, from a system that supports schools to a model that empowers students and parents."
This success for Governor Jindal is only part of his planned slate of education reforms, but the signing into law of HB976 is a major step forward. Still remaining are HB 974 which will address the problems of teacher tenure and HB 933 which will introduce standards for early childhood education.
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers is likely to remain vehemently opposed to all of Jindal's proposed reforms.