Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Parents Show Demand for Choice During New Orleans Signup

Children smile during the signup period for the New Orleans voucher program.
Today wrapped up a short but highly successful signup period for enrollment in the New Orleans voucher program for the 2012-13 school year.

Hundreds of families applied for the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) program, which held a four-day signup period this year that began on Friday and ends today. Some parents arrived as early as 5:30 a.m., creating a line of more than 100 families hours before the doors even opened!

The SSEE Program is gearing up for its fifth year of providing an educational options to low-income parents whose students attend failing schools. With more than 300 families applying on the first day, the sign-up period is expected to have drawn multiple thousands of interested parents.

Held at the University of New Orleans, many parents were overjoyed to be able to apply for the program, but still others were turned away because their children's school only received a “C” rating—performing poorly, but apparently not poorly enough to offer an alternative for families.

Governor Jindal and state legislators are in the process of trying to change that. The governor's education reform package, which includes a state-wide expansion of the New Orleans voucher program and an expansion of eligibility to include students attending "C"-rated schools. Lawmakers are expected to begin the debate on the package this month.

Under the current program, elementary students who attend one of 15 failing public schools in Orleans Parish are eligible to receive a scholarship to attend a participating private school of their parents' choice.  Qualifying families must reside in Orleans Parish and have a household income not exceeding 250 percent of the federal poverty guideline ($57,625 for a family of four).

Enacted in 2008 with bipartisan support, the program provides scholarships to more than 1,800 children.  A December 2011 survey conducted by the Black Alliance for Educational Options showed that over 93 percent of parents with students enrolled in the program were satisfied with their child's school.

Watch this video to see the successful sign-up period and a rallying call for expansion:


 - American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

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