Increase in Availability of Tutoring Vouchers for Louisiana Students with Low Utilization

In Louisiana, legislators progressed a proposal on Wednesday to broaden a voucher initiative for students who don’t meet state standards in math and reading, with officials anticipating a rise in demand for these vouchers.

Rep. Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans, introduced House Bill 244, which aims to boost the voucher amount families receive, extend the grades eligible for the program, and incorporate math tutoring. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee without opposition.

Currently valued at $1,000, the vouchers would see an increase to $1,500 under Hughes’ bill.

Estimates from the Legislative Fiscal Office project that the expanded program will cost Louisiana nearly $4.5 million starting in 2025. Previously, the program was financed by federal Elementary and Secondary School Relief (ESSR) funds.

With the impending expiration of the last round of ESSR funds in September, Louisiana is compelled to utilize the remaining funds by then to avoid forfeiture.

Initially designed with $40 million from ESSR funds, Louisiana Department of Education redirected the money for other purposes when it was evident that only about $2 million would be used by students.

If passed, the Hughes bill would allow students from kindergarten to 12th grade to utilize vouchers for math or literacy tutoring, expanding beyond the current eligibility for kindergarten to fifth-grade students.

Eligibility criteria require students to perform below their grade level in math or English on state assessments, be at risk for learning difficulties, and come from low-income families. Priority is accorded to such families.

Approved tutoring services by the Louisiana Department of Education are the only ones allowable under the program. Despite the legislative changes, the state does not anticipate a notable increase in the program’s utilization. It is expected that over 300,000 students will qualify, yet fewer than 3,000 are predicted to access tutoring.

As highlighted in a NOLA.com report, the tutoring program lacks awareness among educators and parents, has limited tutor availability, and faces obstacles like the application process. Consequently, only 0.8% of eligible students utilized the services since their launch in 2021.

In memory of the late Rep. Steve Carter, who chaired the House Education Committee until 2025, Hughes’ proposal aims to rename the program the Steve Carter Education Program.

The bill now progresses to the Senate Finance Committee for further consideration.

Additionally, the Senate Education Committee approved a measure on Wednesday mandating numeracy screenings for kindergarteners through third graders.

Authored by Rep. Kim Carver, R-Mandeville, House Bill 267 mirrors the literacy screening process and necessitates thrice-yearly assessments for students, with parents being notified of any academic setbacks.

Carver’s proposal also entails intervention and support for students below grade level in numeracy, along with customized improvement plans crafted alongside parents, teachers, and relevant school staff.

The legislation bears a $2.5 million cost for the initial year, escalating to $3 million annually afterward, predominantly due to engaging new vendors for the tri-annual screenings.

With unanimous approval from the committee, the bill now advances to the Senate Finance Committee, targeting implementation in the 2026-27 academic year if ratified.

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