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Last Upated: April 15, 2021
Each spring, parents face one of the biggest decisions they can make for their child: What school environment will their child will spend about 1,000 hours in next year?
Making that decision with confidence starts with knowing your options. You may have more school choices than you realize! Understanding your choices can help you find a school where your child is happy and actively learning. Louisiana families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, homeschooling, and learning pods.
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First of all, children in Louisiana can choose traditional public schools. Traditional public schools are free to attend, open to all students, operated by school districts, and funded by taxpayers like you. Did you know that Louisiana spends an average of $12,362 per public school student each year?
In most cases in Louisiana, each district decides whether it will participate in open enrollment. Open enrollment refers to whether parents can choose to send their children to any public school, regardless of their zip code or where the school is located. Open enrollment is a valuable form of public school choice, increasing families’ access to free, public school options.
Louisiana parents should check with their local school district if they wish to participate in open enrollment. The state only requires districts to offer open enrollment in certain circumstances, such as when students wish to transfer from a school in academic distress to a school that is not in academic distress. Students participating in open enrollment are provided transportation by their public school of choice, if that school is closer to the student’s residence than their assigned school.
Find out more about public schools in your state here: Louisiana’s Department of Education.
You can also choose from more than 140 charter schools. Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are allowed extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what community need it serves. For instance, the school might provide a Spanish immersion program or offer a rigorous, literacy-based curriculum. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a lottery system is usually used to determine admittance. For more information on charter schools in your state, check out the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools.
Magnet schools are another school choice in Louisiana. These are free public schools that allow kids to focus on specific themes, like science or the performing arts. Louisiana has several magnet schools throughout the state. Some Louisiana districts with magnet schools include Caddo Parish Public Schools, Calcasieu Parish Public Schools, East Baton Rouge Parish, Iberville Parish Schools, Tangipahoa Parish School District. The East Baton Rouge Parish School System, for instance, has magnet schools allowing students to focus on pre-law, visual and performing arts, health sciences, business and governmental affairs, or engineering. If you have a magnet school near you with a theme that interests your child, it could be a great choice for you.
Families in Louisiana can also consider private schools, nonpublic schools that charge tuition. Private schools may offer a unique curriculum, smaller class sizes, or a faith-based tradition. Louisiana’s more than 300 private schools come in all shapes and forms, from Montessori schools to schools designed for children with special needs.
The average tuition for private schools in the state is $6,799 per year, but keep in mind that schools often are more affordable at the elementary level than high school. In Louisiana, there are a couple opportunities in place to make private school more affordable. For one, families who pay private school expenses can claim a deduction on their taxes. Also, families with incomes below a certain level can qualify for tax-credit scholarships. Additionally, Louisiana has two voucher programs, one for students with special needs and one for low-income students.
Whether your child wants to accelerate learning or needs a quieter environment to focus, you may want to give virtual school a try. Louisiana students in grades K-12 can attend Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy, or University View Academy, both online charter schools, full-time. For part-time options, online providers participate in the state’s Supplemental Course Academy program, which offers free classes to students attending underperforming public schools, public schools that do not offer a certain course, or private schools on opportunity scholarships. Students who do not qualify for free classes can take these courses for a fee.
If a student would like to switch to online school, their parent or legal guardian must notify the currently enrolled school in order to withdraw and identify the online school they are transferring into.
As of December 2020, Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy and University View Academy are both accepting applications for their waitlist.
Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy does not typically provide technology and wifi. But, based on financial need, a loaner computer may be available. At University View Academy, a laptop is provided and an internet stipend can be received at the completion of the school year.
Additionally, Louisiana families looking for an extremely customizable education can choose to homeschool. Homeschooling, the process of parents educating students at home, is permitted in all 50 states.
In Louisiana, notice of your intent to homeschool is required within 15 days of starting and annually by October 1. If you initially begin to homeschool in the middle of the year, it is required that you file notice 12 months after your initial approval. It is recommended that you formally withdraw from your public school so your student is not marked truant. In the case that you decide to return to public school in the middle of the school year, check with your school to see what their protocols are. Each school has unique guidelines for placement.
Louisiana offers funding assistance for homeschool such as the Louisiana Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) and the Louisiana homeschool tax deduction.
Micro-schools, pods, pandemic pods, and learning pods all refer to the same concept: students gathering together in a small group – with adult supervision – to learn, explore, and socialize. Pods themselves can take a variety of legal forms, but in general they can be separated into two categories: self-directed pod (homeschool, homeschool collaborative, or micro-school) and learning support pod. It’s important to understand what kind of pod you are signing up for and the requirements that go along with it. Learn more about learning pods.
If your learning pod or micro-school is choosing its own curriculum and each family is directing their own children’s schooling, it likely qualifies as a homeschool in Louisiana. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA here. Note that homeschool students in Louisiana may still be eligible to participate in classes, sports, or activities at local public schools.
If your learning pod contains more than two families and will have teachers leading unique classes just for your school, it may qualify as a private school. You can read more about what Louisiana classifies as a private school, how they’re regulated, and how to start one.
If your child is going to be enrolled in remote learning through your local public school and supervised by an adult in your learning pod, you do not need to register as a homeschool or private school. Keep in mind that you have multiple online learning options, including multiple free, full-time online schools that are available to students statewide.
For additional information about school choices in Louisiana, visit these resources:
National School Choice Week 2022 will take place January 23 – 29, 2022. We encourage all schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals to join the celebration. Check out ideas, inspiration, and more information!
Louisiana celebrated National School Choice Week 2021 with 699 virtual events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Louisiana.
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