Louisiana voucher program application process begins

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana families can now begin to enroll in the voucher program for the 2014-15 school year.

They can apply at the school of their choice online or in person starting Monday.

The application period is open until February 28.

Last year, more then 12,000 students across the state applied for the scholarships.   A spokesperson for the Louisiana Federation of Children says only 8,000 seats were available, which left thousands of other students in failing schools.

The state Department of Education says this year 136 schools are participating in the voucher program.  Eight of those schools are not cleared to accept new students.  The LFC says that is because of one big issue.

"With the scholarship program, after one year if they're under performing they cannot take new scholarship students," said Kelli Bottger, with LFC.

Bottger says the private and parochial schools have one year to make a difference.  She added in some cases, these schools need more than one year due to academic gaps.

Parents are able to see how those schools are doing, Bottger says, using the Scholarship Cohort Index.  She says it shows parents which schools are performing well and which are not.

Linda Stone, the principal at Greater Baton Rouge Hope Academy, says they chose to participate in the voucher program two years ago.  They currently have 43 students, that's 30% of the school population.  Stone says taking part in the program was an opportunity to grow the school and give students who have unique learning needs a place to go, where there is specialized attention.

"We work with students with autism, learning disabilities, developmental delays - a variety of types of students," said Stone.

She also says the teachers are Hope Academy are trained in helping students with learning problems.

"We know exactly what's going on with them, pinpoint areas of deficiency and make a change."

Stone says there is one downfall to the program: transportation.  She says she's heard positive feedback from parents about the schools environment, but voucher enrollment has dropped slightly because parents must provide transportation.

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