Gov. Edwards Proposes Voucher Cuts

Results Could Have an Effect on 7000 Low-Income Students

Eric Craig | 5/9/2016, 5 p.m. | Updated on 5/9/2016, 5 p.m.
Governor John Bel Edwards proposes to cut the Louisiana Scholarship Program by $6 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year. Currently ...
John Edwards

Governor John Bel Edwards proposes to cut the Louisiana Scholarship Program by $6 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year. Currently the proposal is in debate in the Louisiana Legislature. The proposed cut would reduce the VOICE Program from $42 million to $36 million. The program cuts are one of many in hopes of balancing the state’s $900 million budget deficit.

According to the Louisiana Federation for Children, the program is designed for low income families. The program provides low income families with more options for schooling, while also combating low performance in low-income student groups. The program holds voucher-accepting schools accountable for raising the academic performance of these students.

Ann Duplessis, President of the Louisiana Federation for Children wrote a Letter to the Editor on nola.com, expressing her discontent to the proposed budget cuts.

“The governor says he can reduce funding by 14 percent and still educate the same number of students. State education Superintendent John White told the House Appropriations Committee that, as a practical matter, the proposed funding reduction will mean that all the students who expected a scholarship for next year won't be able to find a slot,” Duplessis wrote.

Duplessis believes the Louisiana Scholarship Program needs 46 million dollars to function properly. With the current proposed budget cuts, Duplessis projects the program will support 1000 fewer students.

Additionally, Duplessis is a strong supporter of the program’s contributions to student growth.

“Over the past five years, the Louisiana Scholarship Program has shown steadfast improvement in test scores, closing the achievement gap with public schools from 32 percent, when the program began taking students who were desperately behind in school, to 18 percent now” Duplessis wrote.

The Louisiana Scholarship Program launched in 2008 as a citywide initiative in New Orleans as the Student Scholarships for Education Excellence Program. The Voucher Program was expanded statewide in 2012, renamed the Louisiana Scholarship Program.

According to the Louisiana Federation for Children 2015-16 analysis of the Voucher Program, the program serves over 7100 students. The scholarship program has an application pool amounting to over 12,000 students each year.

The Voucher Program works with 119 private and church-sponsored schools that receive public money to cover a child’s attendance cost.

Currently, out of the 7100 students, 88.6 percent are minority students. Out of those, 81 percent are African-American. Twelve percent of the total population of voucher students are White. Ninety-two percent of the total scholarship body receive federal free or reduced lunch.

The American Federation for Children, which is a national group with a local chapter in Louisiana, funded an on-air commercial advertisement attacking Gov. Edwards for his proposed cut to the Voucher Program.

The 30-second commercial featured unidentified parents reacting to the cuts to the voucher system.

“I just can’t believe he would put us in a situation where our Child’s education is at stake,” an unidentified mother said.

Since the proposal of the budget cut, Gov. Edwards has refuted criticism about his decision.

According to nola.com, Edward’s staff has suggested the budget cuts will not reduce the current number of students, but will instead pay voucher-accepting schools less.