Baton Rouge: Last week, Governor Bobby Jindal signed House Bill 976 into law. Among other options, the legislation provides state-funded scholarships to students attending C, D, and F schools to enroll in state-approved nonpublic schools or A and B public schools outside their district or attendance zone. And today, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), the agency tasked with implementing the scholarship program, outlined a process and timeline for approving schools and enrolling students for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year.
While a similar program has operated in New Orleans since 2008, 2012-2013 will mark the first year students across the state will be eligible to participate in the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program (SSEEP). Likewise, while the existing Orleans Parish program began by offering tuition assistance to kindergarten through 3rd grade students, with a grade level added each year, the statewide program will be open to kindergarten through 12th grade students. And students will be able to opt to attend not only approved nonpublic schools, but high performing public schools.
About 950 out of 1,300 schools, or 71.5 percent of Louisiana public schools, with a collective enrollment of approximately 450,000 students, earned Cs, Ds, or Fs in 2011. Priority will be given to students attending D and F schools.
"We have an obligation to give all our students their best chance to thrive in school and in life," State Superintendent of Education John White said. "Through this program and process, we intend to give more of our children the option to attend high-quality schools, beginning with students who have been trapped in some of our lowest-performing schools."
Last week the LDOE hosted a webinar for leaders of nonpublic schools and public schools that meet the preliminary program requirements. More than 290 representatives participated in the informational calls, where they received an overview of the scholarship program, eligibility requirements, the application process, and were allowed to ask questions. Recordings of these calls have been posted on the LDOE website.
The timeline for qualifying schools is as follows:
- The LDOE will distribute school registration packets this week and will continually update the list of eligible schools on the Department’s website as schools quality for the program.
- Schools will be notified of their eligibility within one week of submitting the application.
The timeline for student enrollment is as follows:
- Families will be able to apply for the statewide scholarship program beginning Tuesday, May 22nd. Applications will be accessible online at www.louisianaschools.net and on-site at any participating school.
- Students will submit completed applications to the LDOE no later than Friday, June 29th; more information on the submission of student applications will be available soon.
- After the application process is completed and eligibility is determined, the Department will identify scholarship recipients through a prioritized lottery process in July.
- All applicants will be notified of the results of the lottery, no later than July 31.
- To be eligible, a child must have been enrolled in a public school during the 2011-2012 school year that was labeled C, D or F, unless a student is entering kindergarten for the first time in the 2012-2013 school year.
- Students must also be residents of Louisiana and meet income eligibility requirements (family income in 2011 cannot exceed 250% of the federal poverty guidelines).
- Continuing students who were awarded a scholarship in the previous year are also eligible.
For more information about the scholarship program, visit www.louisianaschools.net or call the Louisiana Department of Education’s Help Center at 1-877-453-2721.