White: Education bill allows transfers across parish lines

White: Education bill allows transfers across parish lines

An education reform bill backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal giving low-income parents greater flexibility over where to send their children to school would mean students could use state-funded vouchers to attend schools outside of the parish they live in. That's according to Superintendent of Education John White, who spoke today to the Baton Rouge Press Club.

"If a school opts in and says 'We have seats available,' it is the option of the local school district to make seats available, and that would include kids from other parishes," he says.

White's comments were the first to shed light on some of the logistics of the school-choice legislation, which is one of the fundamental tenets of the governor's education reform package and also one of the more controversial.

So far, the plan has been sketchy on details, such as how many schools could reasonably be expected to participate and how many students could be accommodated.

White acknowledged as much, saying, "We're waiting for the laws to be passed. Until then, we don't have specific numbers."

He adds that 335 non-public schools are currently eligible for the program and that, based on similar bills that have passed in other states, between 3,000 and 4,000 students could be expected to participate in the first year.

White's address to the Press Club was essentially a rehash of the stump speech the administration has been giving around the state as it tries to sell the reform package, but he sought to temper characterizations of the plan as a "radical overhaul" of education.

"This is just looking at where things are working well for children in Louisiana and how we can do those things across Louisiana," he says, citing New Orleans as an example of where a pilot school-choice program is working well.

Also on hand to talk up the education reform package was Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret, who called the passage of education reform this session "the single-most important thing we can do to move Louisiana forward."

Moret supported that assertion with the results of two surveys. One shows that corporate executives say improving public schools is the most important change Louisiana can make if it wants to attract businesses here. The other shows that lack of a qualified workforce is the No. 1 reason top Louisiana executives do not expand here.

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