Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) followed up new laws creating the broadest school choice state in the nation, including the largest statewide voucher program, by also signing into law Louisiana’s first tax-credit scholarships.
“[The credit] will give low-income students from mostly failing schools an opportunity to attend private schools that agree to participate in the program,” said state Rep. Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge), one of legislation’s sponsors.
The program provides tax rebates to individuals and businesses who donate to nonprofits that pay students’ private school tuition, said Kevin Kane, president of the Pelican Institute for Public Policy.
“It will allow more children to attend the school of their choice,” Kane said.
Tax-Credit Scholarships Increase
Approximately ten other states currently allow tax-credit scholarships. Some, such as Indiana, similarly base student eligibility on family income. Others, such as Florida’s corporate tax credit, are targeted specifically for special-needs students. Arizona’s individual tax credit proceeds are open to all students in the state.
Children who receive the grants must come from families whose incomes are at or below 250 percent of the poverty line, or approximately $60,000 for a family of four. Those attending schools the states grades “D” or “F” will be given priority. Of the donations scholarship-granting organizations receive, 95 percent must go towards scholarships and the rest can pay for administrative costs. Jindal signed the bill May 8.
“The [Louisiana] program is another incredible step toward our common goal of providing the best education for our children who are failing in schools year after year,” said Virginia Walden Ford, founder of D.C. Parents for School Choice.
Part of Comprehensive Reform
Louisiana’s tax credit program is just one part of the major education reforms that Jindal approved this legislative session, which included the largest vouchers system in the country, applicable to nearly half the K-12 students in Louisiana. The state expanded its New Orleans voucher program to students attending schools graded “C” or below. An estimated 380,000 students will be eligible for a voucher.
Another notable reform was to teacher tenure laws. Teachers must now be rated highly-effective for five consecutive years to receive tenure instead of automatically receiving tenure after three years.
“We are pleased that Louisiana continues to expand educational opportunities for kids around the state,” said Kane. “Charter schools, vouchers, tax rebates, and online learning have all been advanced in recent weeks. We are not hanging our hat on one form of school choice. We are offering an array of options that will benefit a broad range of families. This is great news for Louisiana.”
Image by Worcester Academy.