Study shows majority of Louisiana parents support school vouchers

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - More than half of parents in Louisiana say they would not send their children to the public school they are the zone for if they had a choice. That's according to a recent survey by the Black Alliance for Educational Options. The group, more commonly known as BAEO, supports education and says educating in Baton Rouge is a challenge.

All children deserve access to quality education, was the sentence echoed by several speakers Thursday, at a luncheon for those with connections to local school systems. BAEO says a study conducted in four states: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana shows parents want reform for their child's education.

"Baton Rouge is a city that's split evenly black and white. How do you end up with a school district that's 90 plus percent black and low income? Tells me everybody with money that could get out, is out," said the president of BAEO, Kenneth Campbell.

Campbell says when his family moved to the area from Washington D.C., his real estate agent showed him a home in Baton Rouge and told him he would need to calculate private school tuition into his budget.

"Not should consider it, have to consider it," Campbell says he was told.

He says with families fleeing the system, those who are left are low-income black families. They deserve better education options, he says.

"Baton Rouge has more private schools than any city in America, per capita," said Josh LeSage, the principal at Hosanna Christian Academy, who also spoke at the luncheon.

Not everyone has had access to private schools until now, with the state's voucher program. Hosanna Christian Academy has one of the largest enrollments of voucher students.

"I took over a school that had 350 students. Now we have 700, but I lost about 60 percent of my paying parent base because they didn't want their children to go to school with those children," LeSage said.

He says in two years, 2,000 applications had his school as the first choice. He says one reason for that is because there are not many other options for parents who are taking their children out of failing public schools, because many local private schools are not participating in the program.

The study by BAEO also found in Louisiana that vouchers are overwhelmingly supported because low-income black families trapped in failing schools now have a path to success. But because there is limited state funding available, Campbell says educators need to continue to find alternate ways to reach those children.

"Less than ten percent of black children nationwide are considered college ready," Campbell quoted to the audience. Statistics like that, he says, should be startling and push the black community to figure out other options. He says it brings to mind a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. 'Our lives will begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.'

"We can't be silent anymore," Campbell said, referring to black children and education.

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