School Choice Score: 75%
There are four popular private school choice programs consisting of tax-credit scholarships and vouchers that suffer from high regulatory burdens that dissuade private schools from participating. Louisiana’s Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program is awarded to income-qualified students in failing schools. The program is awarding scholarships to currently over 7,000 students. Louisiana also has a special needs voucher program and a scholarship tax credit for low-income students. In 2012, teachers unions and local school boards brought the voucher program, and Gov. Jindal’s overall education reform package, to court. The State Supreme Court ruled in Spring 2013 that the funding mechanism for the program was unconstitutional, but the program itself was not struck down and in June the Governor signed the state’s annual budget, which included a $45 million appropriation for the program for the 2013–2014 school year. The state also permits parents some choices among traditional public schools by allowing students in low performing schools to attend another school within their district, but to move from one district to another requires the districts to agree to such transfers.
Charter Schools Score: 78%
Despite 100 percent of students in the Big Easy now attending charters, Louisiana has an above-average law that has improved slowly since a robust charter movement, with extraordinary philanthropy, began in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Outside of the Recovery District and New Orleans, however, traditional school districts neither encourage nor promote the creation of charter schools. Students in some of the state’s most depressed and rural communities need access to great schools, too. Authorizers have expanded to universities and nonprofits, but all schools are still sponsored by districts and the state. Funding and a lack of facilities assistance is still a struggle and simplifying the types of charters would go a long way to uniformity of the law.
Online Learning Score: 78%
Louisiana’s Virtual School dates back to 2000. Policy allows for multiple providers, but in practice access has been limited for students. Louisiana has begun their transition to digital learning and over the 2014-15 school year, schools will administer all of assessments and end-of-course tests online. To support school districts in the transition to technology-rich schools, the Louisiana Department of Education developed a technology footprint for each school district based on data provided by sixty-seven districts and charters from their responses to the Technology Readiness Tool.
- Source: Digital Learning Now!
Teacher Quality Score: 85%
Louisiana teachers receive feedback about their evaluations and their professional development is aligned with evaluation findings. Tenure can be lost after one ineffective rating and is only received if a teacher has five of six highly effective ratings. Teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations are required to go on improvement plans and are eligible for dismissal if they do not improve, although this process can take significant time. Louisiana has one of the most comprehensive performance pay policies in the country, requiring all human resources decisions to be based on a combination of performance, demand, and experience.