Louisiana Scholarship Program not fully funded amid budget cuts
Some state-issued scholarships that allow low-income families to send their children to private schools have been revoked.
Nicole Jack is looking forward to starting first grade at Our Lady of Prompt Succor, in Westwego, this fall.
“My daughter is very gifted. She makes straight A’s, she reads beyond her grade level, so she deserves to go to a better school,” said Nikesha Hudson.
She applied to the Louisiana Scholarship Program to get help with paying for the $4,800 tuition.
“I got the email saying she did get the scholarship,” Hudson said.
That email came from the Louisiana Department of Education on April 21 and also said her child’s placement for this school “depends upon the continuation of funding for the Louisiana Scholarship Program for the 2016-17 school year.”
Hudson still registered her daughter at the school and spent $300 on uniforms, but after no further correspondence from the school she started asking questions.
“They looked at the list and my daughter’s name wasn’t on the list. She said, ‘Well maybe she’s one of the kids that got cut,'” said Hudson.
She was told a total of 17 children granted scholarships to the school would not receive them.
“When I asked her about notification, she said the state said they would send out a letter and notify the parents and that’s why the school didn’t, but that didn’t happen until yesterday,” Hudson said.
In the second email from the Department of Education, Hudson was told, “Given the current amount of funding that the Louisiana Legislature has allocated, we are not able to honor your child’s scholarship award.”
“I don’t know what to do because I have all these uniforms, and my daughter is crushed because she thought she was going to that school,” she said.
She was told her daughter would be placed on a waitlist, and she may be contacted at a later date if funding becomes available and the scholarship award can be reinstated.
“The governor said no child would lose the scholarship because of the budget cuts,” Hudson said of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ campaign promises.
For now Hudson is considering finding a way to pay the tuition herself to avoid disappointing her daughter.
There are 3,000 students who receive scholarships to attend Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Superintendent Dr. Jan Lancaster said, “Our hearts go out to all those families affected.”
“We have worked with the state to be sure that students currently enrolled and who have been attending Catholic schools in our area did receive their scholarship, and we are working to find alternative funding sources to make Catholic education available,” said Lancaster.
According to the Department of Education, there were 10,995 scholarship applications received for the 2016-17 school year.
The department made 1,814 new scholarship awards to students this year, and 1,480 registered with their new school and accepted their award. The department will likely be able to honor between 900 and 1,100 of the 1,480 new awards immediately. Remaining students will be placed on a waitlist for enrollment on a quarterly basis throughout the school year.
The department made 6,422 awards to continuing students who had an award for the 2015-2016 school year. Those students are not required to complete registration at their school again to confirm their award.