School Choice & Charters

Top District Opts Out of New Louisiana Choice Program

By Sean Cavanagh — May 09, 2012 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s new, much-touted school choice program has suffered an early setback as one of the state’s highest-achieving school districts has said, no thanks.

The Zachary Community School District, a 5,300-student system outside of Baton Rouge, has reversed an earlier decision and chosen not to accept students from academically struggling public schools, citing concerns about absorbing new financial costs and overburdening its teachers and schools.

The superintendent of the district, Warren Drake, told me in an interview today that his worries about the financial burdens of the program have largely been mollified, following a discussion he had with Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White. But Drake added that he and other district leaders had heard enough objections about putting new burdens on teachers, lack of space in the schools, and other challenges to decide not to take part in the program—at least not next year.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” Drake said. “We’re crowded, and the teachers have a lot responsibilities on them right now.”

Zachary school board members had initially decided last month to accept 30 students from the low-performing schools through the choice program, which was signed into law by Jindal, a Republican, on April 18. But soon after that, board members became concerned that the law’s funding mechanism would not be sufficient to cover the costs of absorbing new students.

Those concerns drew an immediate answer from White, the state schools chief, who today issued a press release offering a point-by-point explanation of the funding system. He said that students who transfer from academically low-performing systems will bring their full share of state funding with them—equaling a total of about $8,500—not just a portion of it, $4,000, as Zachary district officials seemed to believe, the superintendent said. The funding provided with be the total amount of local and state funding associated with each child, White explained, and districts accepting children don’t lose anything.

“Our state’s top-performing school district did a courageous thing by agreeing to accept students who right now do not have the quality choices Zachary community members enjoy,” White wrote. “The board’s reversal of that decision...was based on false information.”

Louisiana’s choice program creates a new, statewide private school voucher program with relatively loose income-eligibility requirements and room for potentially strong growth over time. But another part of the program—the one debated in the Zachary district—allows students who are in C, D, or F-ranked schools to apply to attend A or B schools. When there are more applicants than slots at A and B schools, admission is determined by lottery.

Drake noted that the Zachary school district accepted about 300 new students in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and that service did not fall off. Initially, district officials wanted to take part in the new choice program, reasoning that “we had to help, even in a small way,” Drake said.

But in the weeks that followed, resistance to the program emerged from the community, he said. Residents have supported the school district through relatively high taxes, the superintedent said. Some had feared that service would slip and classroom crowding would increase with the addition of new students next year, and possibly for years after that, if more students came on board. Drake noted that district officials are also worried about overburdening teachers who will be absorbing major policy changes, including the adoption of Common Core academic standards and a new teacher-evaluation system, in the time ahead. He left open the possibility the district could join the choice program in the future.

“We will continue to explore ways to help students in academically unacceptable schools where possible,” he said in a statement, “but at this time [we] are responding to requests from the community not to participate in this program.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Virtual Charters in Hot Water Again. Accusations of Fraud Prompt $150M Lawsuit
Indiana officials seek to recoup more than $150 million they say was either wrongly obtained or misspent by a consortium of virtual schools.
Arika Herron, The Indianapolis Star
2 min read
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis. Rokita filed a lawsuit against a group of online charter schools accused of defrauding the state out of millions of dollars Thursday, July 8, 2021.
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis.
Darron Cummings/AP
School Choice & Charters How the Pandemic Helped Fuel the Private School Choice Movement
State lawmakers got a new talking point as they pushed to create and expand programs to send students to private schools.
8 min read
Collage showing two boys in classroom during pandemic wearing masks with cropped photo of feet and arrows going in different directions.
Collage by Gina Tomko/EducationWeek (Images: Getty)
School Choice & Charters Opinion Taking Stock After 30 Years of Charter Schools
Rick Hess speaks with Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, on charter schools turning 30.
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters In Fight Over Millions of Dollars for Charter Schools, a Marijuana Tax May Bring Peace
The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind a polarizing lawsuit settlement, pending certain stipulations.
Nuria Martinez-Keel, The Oklahoman
3 min read
Money bills cash funds close up Getty