By US Daily Review Staff.
Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law yesterday an expansion of Louisiana’s school voucher program, making it one of the largest such programs nationwide.
Vouchers, which allow parents to use government funding for their children’s private school tuition, were first proposed in 1955 by Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, who believed universally available vouchers were the best way to improve education. In 1990, the first voucher program was created in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, though only for low-income families. Last year, Indiana took historic action by making more than half of its student population voucher-eligible. Now, more than half of all Louisiana students will qualify for vouchers.
“States are realizing that school choice works,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, Milton Friedman’s legacy foundation. “The more that states can move from limited school choice to universal availability, the greater its benefits will be to those in need. Indiana is witnessing this now. So, too, will Louisiana.”
Although widely supported by conservatives and independents who are worried about the monopoly the government has on education, such programs have its critics. Liberals and unions do not believe that the competition private schools provide are “fair,” since they are able to do their operations at a much lower cost. Meanwhile, libertarians worry about government funding leading to government control and point to Hillsdale College as an example of an institution that has avoided government funding for that very reason.
In Louisiana, vouchers have been available since 2008, but only to New Orleans children and students with special needs in eligible parishes. In the 2012-13 school year, the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program will allow low- and middle-income students statewide to receive vouchers if they are enrolled in public schools graded “C,” “D,” or “F” byLouisiana’s accountability system.
Currently, 18 states, including Louisiana, and Washington, D.C., provide private school choice through vouchers or the tax code. In 2011, called “The Year of School Choice” by voucher supporters, 13 states increased the availability of school choice; eight new programs were created and 11 existing laws were expanded. This year, Florida and Arizona have approved increases to their private school choice programs, while Virginia and New Hampshire—neither of which allow private school choice—have passed scholarship proposals.
“Through the growth we saw in 2011 and the momentum we’re witnessing in 2012, our country is moving closer to Milton Friedman’s vision of school choice for all families,” Enlow added. “Through universally available vouchers, we fundamentally can change the way public education works, from a system that supports schools to a model that empowers students and parents.”
With the support of Gov. Jindal and Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education, John White, the statewide voucher expansion passed both legislative chambers by wide margins.