Louisiana Education Voucher Program

October 16, 2013

The Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), also known as the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program, provides public funds for low-income students in low-performing public schools to enroll in local private schools. The program was initially piloted in New Orleans in 2008; Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and the state legislature expanded the LSP statewide in 2012, allowing thousands of public school students to transfer out of their residentially assigned schools and into private schools of their choosing, say Anna Egalite and Jonathan Mills of the University of Arkansas.

The program has recently come under fire from the U.S. Department of Justice, which has filed a lawsuit alleging the program is impeding federal school desegregation efforts initiated in the 1970s. Fortunately, data has been collected on the school choices made by many voucher recipients, which enables researchers to study the program's likely effects on the racial makeup of Louisiana schools.

  • The evidence suggests that use of private school vouchers by low-income students actually has positive effects on racial integration.
  • Among the subset of students for whom data are available, Egalite and Mills find that transfers made possible by the school choice program overwhelmingly improve integration in the public schools that students leave (the sending schools), bringing the racial composition of the schools closer to that of the broader communities in which they are located.
  • In the school districts under federal desegregation orders, which are the focus of the Department of Justice litigation, LSP transfers improve integration in both the sending schoolsandthe private schools that participating students attend (receiving schools).

These findings should help mitigate fears that school choice is harming desegregation efforts in Louisiana. LSP is unlikely to have harmed desegregation efforts in Louisiana. To the contrary, the statewide school voucher program appears to have brought greater integration to Louisiana's public schools.

Source: Anna J. Egalite and Jonathan N. Mills, "The Louisiana Scholarship Program," Education Next, Winter 2014.

 

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