Scholarship students begin school
Students start new schools funded with controversial voucher initative
Saint Joseph's Catholic School originally agreed to take four students from the Louisiana Scholarship Program, but administrators quickly realized they would need room for a few more.
"This is a new program and the state department is working out some of the kinks," Principal Susan Belanger said of the enrollment accommodations.
The school did get those four originally students, but some have siblings who want to follow their younger brother or sister to St. Joseph's.
"That was one of the things that they came out from that and we were able to accept three siblings from the original voucher or scholarship students," said Belanger.
"We were trusting the state and the process and the program that John White and the governor put forth," said Kevin Nolten, St. Joseph's marketing director.
Nolten worked closely with the state to bring the scholarship program to St. Jospeh's. With an enrollment that tops 480 students, Nolten says three extra scholarship students will not stretch their resources.
"We weren't really worried about the kinks because of our minimal participation," said Nolten.
Belanger says the only thing that sets their voucher student apart is the way they pay their tuition. The students are held to the same standards and have the same concerns as their counterparts.
"I spoke to some of the parents as they came in as well as the students and they have the same anxiety as anyone would have on the first day of school," said Belanger.
The Louisiana Scholarship Program allows K-12 students from failing schools to take part in private education.
The program received criticism for spending public tax money on private schools. Additionally, many of the participating schools have a religious foundation and teach according to their church doctrine which would not be allowed in their public counterparts.
Four Ark-La-Tex schools accepted scholarship students this year.
In Caddo Parish, the list includes St. Joseph's 7 total students, Dreamkeepers Academy with 4 initial seats, and Evangel Christian Academy, which opened 80 spots.
New Living Word in Lincoln Parish requested 315 scholarship students.
The state approved 5,600 scholarship seat requests. The highest numbers of vouchers went to kindergarten classrooms. The number of available seats drops with each higher grade level.
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