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Louisiana school voucher program - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Louisiana school voucher program

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CADDO PARISH (KTBS) -

Thousands of Louisiana parents are looking toward taxpayer funded vouchers to get their children out of failing schools.But even the private schools they are turning to can have problems making the grade.

Here at Evangel Christian Academy, administrators say the school is a melting pot of students from different backgrounds.  That has become even more the case since state vouchers became an option for students seeking alternatives to their failing public schools. 

 "We are not a highly selective school although we do select our students because we are a private school.   We serve a very diverse socioeconomic group and demographic group. So it fits perfectly into what we already do," said Albert Dean,  Evangel Christian Academy High school Principal.

Evangel has 127 students enrolled in the Louisiana Scholarship Program.K through 6th grades have 66 students. The high school campus has 61 students. 

A state review of student performance found too many still struggling to meet academic standards. Evangel must make a 10 point improvement in scores this year or be barred from enrolling any more voucher students. 

 "We have an extensive after school program at which our students are involved in.   Those that we deem at risk , most of them came from very poor performing schools," said Dean. 

Deen had no direct response to what happens if the school cannot bring its 39.6 grade up to the necessary score of 50.

However,  the school has assured the parents of their voucher students, that the school  won't abandon them.  But helping students gain academic ground isn't an overnight process. 

"Just in our general population, what we see is after about a year and a half, we see great improvement.  We know that if those kids would stay in the program and they do what we have planned for them, they will show significant improvement," said Dean,

St. Joseph's Catholic School in Shreveport has had more success with performance scores, but it has  fewer voucher students -- 13.  

"Students have a tendency to rise to the standards and the standards set forth by St. Joseph Catholic  School has been exceeded by these students.  They have come in, they've embraced our academic standards," said Kevin Nolten, Assistant Principal, St. Joseph Catholic School.  

The other two voucher schools in Caddo Parish; are Dreamkeepers Academy and McKinney Byrd Academy. http://www.mckinney-byrdacademy.com/

For the 2014-15 academic year, there will be five. Living Word academy has been approved for participation.

"I know how well it is working for St. Joseph's school and how much we support the program and embrace the program.
Working well with John White and the State Superintendent's office has been a beautiful and seamless process," said Nolton.

Qualifying students of the voucher program must currently be either in a low performing C,D, or F public school. Or, entering kindergarten and the family income must be under 250% of the federal poverty line.

Vouchers, of course, come at the cost of public school districts, with state funding following the voucher student. Caddo Parish School Superintendent Dr. Lamar Goree says whatever one thinks of school vouchers,he hopes parents remember the benefits that a public education can offer.

"Of course as a true supporter of public education, I am not a supporter of the voucher system. What I will say though is that I am a supporter of choice.  However, I do believe we should use public school funds to improve our public schools," said Dr. Goree.

The deadline for parents to apply for vouchers is Friday, February 28th.

Because so many parents apply, a lottery will help determine who will be awarded vouchers.
Qualified students will be selected  and notified the week of April 7th.
A second round of applications will be accepted April 14th

In addition to academic challenges to some private schools in the voucher program, there have been financial clouds as well. An audit of Ruston's New Living Word school last year found students were overcharged for tuition. That school has been barred from participation.


http://www.louisianabelieves.com/

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