The expansion of a voucher program has long been one Governor Bobby Jindal's major educational reform goals, and after last night, it comes a little closer to becoming a reality, as the Louisiana's House of Representatives approved the program with a vote of 60-42. This now means that the expansion plan is ready for Jindal's signature, which will put into effect the largest school voucher program in the nation.
The expanded Student Scholarships for Education Excellence Program will allow any student from a family making up to 250% of federal poverty level and attending a school marked C, D, or F by the state accountability system to receive state-funded scholarships to attend a private school of their choice. In its current incarnation, the program is only open to special needs students in designated parishes, or students in New Orleans.
"In passing this measure, lawmakers listened to their constituents who are demanding high-quality education options for Louisiana families," Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation, said. Enlow's organization was founded by Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, who first developed the idea of school vouchers. "This measure puts control of kids' educations where it belongs—in the hands of their parents. We applaud Gov. Jindal, Superintendent White, and the legislative leaders who are making Louisiana a lead state in putting students first."
The passage of the expansion was not in doubt after it sailed through the State Senate with a final tally of 24-15, but in voting for the expansion, the legislators were echoing the wishes of their constituents as much as showing support for the Governor's legislative agenda. Last month, a poll released by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, showed that 60% of voters were supportive of the plan to expand voucher access to the entire state of Louisiana.
"This is a momentous day for the families of Louisiana," State Superintendent of Education John White said. "All students deserve a fair chance in life, and that begins with the opportunity to attend a high-quality school. These policy changes are aligned with that central belief, and Gov. Jindal and state lawmakers have demonstrated a clear commitment to prioritize the educational rights of Louisiana's next generation above all else."