Feb. 14, 2013 03:50

More schools are seeking to join Louisiana's voucher program next year, a sign that the number of students using public dollars for private schools will grow.


BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - More schools are seeking to participate in Louisiana's voucher program next year, according to a list released Wednesday, in a sign that the number of students using taxpayer dollars to go to private schools likely will grow.

The Department of Education said 133 private schools have been approved to receive voucher students in the 2013-14 school year, up from 117 schools this year. A high-performing St. Landry Parish public school also will continue to take students seeking to leave lower-performing schools through the voucher program.

The student application was released Wednesday, available online and at participating schools, with a March 15 deadline.

Superintendent of Education John White is moving ahead with a new year of the Louisiana Scholarship Program, even as questions remain about how the voucher slots will be funded.

A Baton Rouge judge declared voucher financing through the public school funding formula to be unconstitutional. If the Louisiana Supreme Court upholds the ruling, lawmakers would have to pay for the program another way to continue the vouchers.

The education department estimated vouchers will cost the state about $25 million this school year, with more than 4,900 students enrolled.

The taxpayer-financed tuition at private and parochial schools is available to students from low- to moderate-income families who otherwise would attend public schools graded with a C, D or F by the state. Priority is given to students in D- and F-rated schools.

If more students apply than slots are available, the seats are awarded through a lottery process. Applicants will find out if they've received a voucher by mid-April.

White said the education department will decide how many vouchers will be available to each approved school by March 15. Schools that weren't accredited received site visits before they were approved to participate in the program, he said.

Only one school has been deemed ineligible to accept state-funded voucher students next year: BeauVer Christian Academy in DeRidder, a small religious school also rejected last year because of concerns that the campus wasn't equipped to handle the students.