Voucher Program in Trouble

Voucher Program Faltering: Accountability and Performance Standards Needed

Educate Now! analyzed student test scores from voucher schools and compared them to New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) schools. We found that for the second year in a row, students participating in the voucher program performed worse than students in the RSD!


Comparing 3rd, 4th and 5th graders

  • Statewide:  75% performed on grade level (Basic or above)
  • RSD schools: 49% performed on grade level
  • Voucher schools: Only 38% performed on grade level

The RSD schools significantly outperformed the voucher schools, despite the requirement that RSD schools must enroll and include in their testing results students with disabilities, who account for 10% of their enrollment. The schools participating in the voucher program are exempt from IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).


Just like there is a wide variation in performance of public schools, there is tremendous variation in the performance of schools participating in the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence. Eight of the 34 voucher schools enrolled more than 60% of the students and tested enough students to provide school level results.

Two of the voucher schools outperformed the state average and were in the top 5 of all New Orleans RSD and voucher schools.

  • St. Joan of Arc:  86% performing on grade level or better
  • St. Leo the Great:  82% performing on grade level or better

Their performance is what one would expect from this program and they are giving their students better educational opportunities.

Four of the voucher schools in the state-funded program performed worse than any New Orleans RSD K-8 school.

  • Resurrection of Our Lord:   23% performing on grade level or better
  • Upperroom Bible Church Academy:   22% performing on grade level or better
  • St. Peter Claver:  21% performing on grade level or better
  • Holy Ghost Elementary School:  13% performing on grade level or better


Percent Basic or Above
English and Math, Grades 3, 4, 5 by School
RSD Charter 94% Akili Academy of New Orleans
RSD Charter 88% Martin Behrman Elementary School
Voucher Private 86% ST. JOAN OF ARC SCHOOL (C)
RSD Charter 86% Lafayette Academy of New Orleans
Voucher Private 82% ST. LEO THE GREAT SCHOOL (C)
75% STATE AVG – All Students
49% RSD AVG – All Students
Voucher Private 39% ST. ALPHONSUS SCHOOL (C)
38% VOUCHER AVG – All Students
Voucher Private 37% ST. MARY’S ACADEMY (GIRLS) (C)
RSD Traditional 27% Dr. Charles Richerd Drew Elementary School:
Lowest performing RSD K-8 School
Voucher Private 21% ST. PETER CLAVER SCHOOL (C)

Click here for a complete listing of all schools

*  As of February 15, 2011, there were 1,653 students in grades K-5 enrolled in 34 participating “scholarship” schools, according to data supplied by the Louisiana Department of Education. The scholarship students in grades 3-5 take the Louisiana LEAP and iLeap tests, as do public school students.


The purpose of the voucher program is to give parents better, higher quality school options other than attending a failing school. Any non-failing public school outside of Orleans Parish and any non-public school that had been open for three or more years can participate in the program.

But the data shows that some of the non-public schools participating in the voucher program are not giving these students better educational opportunities. In fact, every single RSD school is out-performing the bottom four voucher schools. This is absolutely inexcusable.

There is currently no accountability or performance standards for the private and parochial schools participating in the Scholarships for Educational Excellence program.

  • No academic standard for initial participation
  • No criteria for continued participation
  • No way to exclude a school based on performance

Educate Now! urges the Governor and the Legislature to enact standards in the scholarship program.

  • Participating non-public schools should be held to the same minimum academic standard as public schools as a condition of continued participation in the program.
  • Parents should be given information on the performance of the participating schools, including how each school’s performance compares to schools in the RSD.

Educate Now! supports giving parents quality choices, but the operative word is quality.

Private or parochial schools that cannot deliver quality should be removed from this program, and we should instead use these funds to expand scholarship opportunities at the higher-performing private schools in New Orleans or to expand scholarship opportunities for low-income students in failing schools in other parts of the state.


5 comments on “Voucher Program in Trouble

  • Lee Barrios says:

    The voucher (so-called scholarship program) program is intended to re-segregate the charter schools by assisting higher performing students to attend private and parochial schools OR to provide a vehicle for removing low performing and special education students to effect an increase in SPS scores for charters.

    Florida brags that it has passed legislation increasing its voucher program for students with disabilities and has added vouchers for 504 students.

    • Educate Now compared the performance of the voucher students to students in the Recovery School District, since the students participating in the scholarship program would have had the RSD schools as their other alternative. The public schools missing from the list are under the oversight of the Orleans Parish School Board, and there is no way to judge other private schools, as private schools do not participate in the state’s testing program (LEAP and iLeap). Only those students receiving vouchers are required to take the state’s tests.

  • Hi Leslie,

    I’m assuming you’re still with EducateNow.

    Since Gov Jindal did not want accountability for taxpayer paid tuitions at nonpublic (private) schools, both religious and secular, I wonder if you believe as I that this is the beginning of the dismantling of Louisiana Public School Systems?

    Also, the local money that I voted to tax myself to build school buildings will be sent to a private school along with the MFP money per child. State Super. John White said that the money for my district will be *deducted* from my school district BEFORE it reaches our district. I see decreased (lowered) bond ratings with some bonds defaulting. Interest rates will be very high.

    • An accountability provision was added to the legislation prior to final passage. It is now up to the Department of Education and BESE to determine what standards will be applied to the voucher program (by August 1, 2012). If they adopt a reasonable standard- schools participating in the voucher program are successful in educating their voucher students- then I think we are giving kids better opportunities.

      I don’t see districts defaulting on their bond debt. First, I suspect the number of students participating in the program will be limited, especially if there is reasonable accountability. Secondly, as a district loses revenue (and the students) from the voucher program, they will need to cut expenses. But they will still be obligated to pay the bond debt. The cuts will need to come from other areas. In New Orleans, the student count plummeted after Katrina, but the district still had to pay the bond debt. The bond debt rose to over $1100/student, giving schools less money for the classroom. As the student population has returned, the bond debt is down closer to $800/student- still higher than pre-Katrina levels.


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