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Last Upated: January 19, 2023
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.
Looking for special education options? You can learn what special education services are available in Louisiana at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.
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 $11,843 per public school student each year? You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.
In most cases in Louisiana, each district decides whether it will participate in open enrollment, so parents should check with their local district if they wish to participate. 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. New Orleans families wishing to transfer schools can find information and apply online at Nola Public Schools.
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. 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.
If your child attends a public school and is in grades K-5, keep in mind that Louisiana recently established the Steve Carter Literacy Program, which provides reading scholarships of up to $1,000 to help public school students in those grades who need extra tutoring or support for literacy. You can find out more about public schools in your state at the Louisiana Department of Education.
You can choose from about 150 charter schools in Louisiana. 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.
In Louisiana, charter schools can be opened after they are authorized by school districts or the state. For more information, 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, Jefferson Parish Schools, and 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 400 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 $7,321 for elementary schools and $8,905 for high schools. 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. And since 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.
Learn more at Private School Review: Louisiana.
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. In 2021, these schools enrolled more than 5,000 students! 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 an online charter 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.
There are also district-run online or hybrid schools available to some families, including St. Mary Parish’s Virtual Learning Program, St. James Parish’s Virtual Academy, St. Martin Parish’s Virtual Learning Program, the East Baton Rouge Parish’s Virtual Learning, St. Tammany Parish’s Virtual Academy, and Virtual Academy of Lafourche.
To read more about online learning in Louisiana, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.
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.
The state requires homeschooling families to teach subjects covered in public schools, and also requires some level of assessment of students using the home study option. Note that homeschool students in Louisiana may still be eligible to participate in classes, sports, or activities at local public schools, though restrictions may apply.
Louisiana offers educational funding assistance that homeschooling families may be eligible for, such as the Louisiana Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) and the Louisiana homeschool tax deduction. You can learn more at the Louisiana Department of Education, Home School Legal Defense Association – Louisiana, and Homeschool Louisiana.
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.
If your learning pod contains more than two families and will have parents or other 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 enrolled in an existing online school or local public, charter, or private school, and uses that school’s curriculum under the supervision of an adult in a learning pod, you do not need to register as a homeschool or private school.
In 2021, Louisiana created a pod law that lays out some guidelines for school districts wanting to establish pods. Under this law, districts can create pods of at least 10 students that are linked to a school under their jurisdiction. Students in such a pod are taught by teachers and staff in the district. While established by a district, these pods can take place in unique locations like museums or libraries, or through virtual means.
Tuition-free Prenda microschools are also available to families in parts of Louisiana.
For additional information about school choices in Louisiana, visit these resources:
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