By Ann Duplessis
President, Louisiana Federation for Children
While every parent wants to provide the best education for their children, not every parent has access to a quality school. In a perfect world every family would live a neighborhood with an excellent public school or be able to afford to send their children to the private school of their choosing that meets their needs. Unfortunately, we don’t live in perfect world and many parents, based on their zip code alone, must send their children to failing and underperforming schools.
In 2004, while serving as member of the Louisiana State Senate in New Orleans, my constituents were calling and visiting my Senate office begging me to do something to help their children. The public school system was in turmoil. Many of the schools were failing academically and parents considered them unsafe.
During this time I would go home and see my beautiful daughters, who attended private schools and didn’t have the same worries. At that moment I realized how blessed we were. If I wanted to continue to have the blessings that God gave me, I needed to bless other folks and use my position and influence to help these families.
As a community, it’s critical that we acknowledge that not every school can meet the needs of each and every student. A school that is a perfect fit for one student could be a very poor match for another. Each student learns differently, has different needs, thrives best in different environments, and each family has different values for their children’s education.
In our communities we have many excellent schools of all types. We also have many programs and options in place that parents of all backgrounds can access. I am proud to have authored and supported school choice legislation, including Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence program in New Orleans in 2008, the precursor of the Louisiana Scholarship Program.
While charter schools and traditional, direct-run schools are the ones most often discussed, the Louisiana Scholarship Program provides parents an even greater landscape of options. Such a program provides an educational choice for a parent that they might not otherwise be able to make, providing the opportunity for a brighter future for their children. The Louisiana scholarship program, which makes available vouchers for students to attend a private school of their family’s choice, coupled with the other school choice options puts families in the driver’s seat of their children’s education.
While there are many reasons and factors that go into a parent’s educational decision – safety, academics, religious or moral teachings, etc., the important thing is that parents not be limited in the choices which they are able to make so as not to limit the level of success their children can meet.
Ann Duplessis is a former state legislator where she served on the Senate Education Committee and fought successfully to expand educational options for Louisiana’s children by authoring and supporting numerous pieces of school choice legislation. She currently serves as chairman of the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors. Duplessis resides in New Orleans and remains active in numerous civic activities.
The Louisiana Federation for Children, a project of the American Federation for Children and the Alliance for School Choice, is dedicated to promoting educational choice by protecting, growing and expanding scholarship programs for low and middle-income children.