At a time when the state faces an estimated $2 billion deficit, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, told legislators Monday that he wants to limit voucher use to students zoned to failing schools and limit the expansion of the state’s charter schools.
In a wide-ranging speech on the opening of the state legislature’s regular session focused heavily on budget cuts, Edwards said the state must limit the use of vouchers to only those students attending schools that receive a D or F on the state’s report card. Currently, students from low-income families that attend schools that received a C, D or F grade on the state’s report card are eligible to participate in the program.
“Voucher programs must conform to their intended purpose, and that is to provide a choice to parents whose kids are trapped in failing schools,” Edwards said. “This will allow us to better focus voucher resources on children in truly failing schools. We must do this without eroding resources from our traditional public schools, which must continue to improve to educate our children.”
Edwards also said he wants to allow school districts that get an A or B on the state’s report card to decide whether or not to approve a charter school.
The state is suffering from the impact of tax cuts made under former Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, coupled with the fall in oil prices. In a special session earlier this month, the legislature made $900 million in midyear cuts and passed a series of tax increases.
The state’s education department, which approves charter schools in New Orleans and oversees the state’s voucher system, is expected to undergo severe cuts. In the earlier special session, the Louisiana House proposed to cut 85 percent of the department’s budget, though that measure was later dropped.
State Superintendent John White said at the time that cuts of such magnitude would effectively shutter his department. He’s expected in the coming weeks to tell legislatures how he would make more cuts this summer.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.