State money will follow students reading below grade level

Parents, guardians could use the money for private, home schooling

By: - June 6, 2022 5:18 pm
several stacks of books

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Louisiana could soon give parents and guardians of students struggling to read the option to pull them out of public school and provide them money for private school or homeschooling. Money for the subsidies would come out of the state budget.

Sen. Sharon Hewitt’s Senate Bill 203, creating the Reading Education Savings Account program, passed the Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives Monday. The program would allow second- or third-grade students who aren’t reading at grade level to pursue alternatives.

“This was just trying to give choices because every child learns differently, and we have, in my opinion, just such a great need,” Hewitt said about the bill last month.

Based on 2019 LEAP test results, only 46% of Louisiana third-graders were on track to master English and 43% were on track to master math, Louisiana State Superintendent Cade Brumley said last year.

The subsidy would equal how much the state spends per student at public schools through its Minimum Foundation Plan (MFP) formula. Students who use the education savings account to pull out of public school would be awarded about $5,164 each on average, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

The actual amount per student in each school district varies depending on a variety of factors, including local tax revenue available and the number of low-income and special needs students. School districts could see additional costs or savings as a result.

For example, St. Helena Parish schools, which have a per-pupil allocation of $8,295, would save money from this program. ​​St. Charles, with a per-pupil allocation of $2,873, would see its costs go up.

The Department of Education anticipates program planning and administration will cost the department $223,954 per year, according to the fiscal note.

Savings accounts for students who are victims of bullying, part of a military family or in foster care were added to the legislation but were eventually removed through amendments.

The bill received criticism for taking money away from state funds that would go to Louisiana public schools that are already struggling because of budget cuts.

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is a former Louisiana Illuminator reporter. Prior to working with the Illuminator, Canicosa worked for Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon. Canicosa earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.