ERIC Number: EJ998241
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Sep-12
Reference Count: N/A
Louisiana Opens Novel Marketplace of K-12 Courses
Robelen, Erik W.
Education Week, v32 n3 p1, 14 Sep 2012
Louisiana is gearing up to open a new front in its push to expand educational choice, essentially creating a marketplace that lets students shop around for publicly funded courses--both online and face-to-face--beyond their schoolhouse doors. More than 30 providers already have stepped forward seeking state approval to take part in the Course Choice program, which opens for business next school year. Several national experts said the statewide program appears to be unique, even as it blends elements of some existing approaches, from virtual and charter schools to voucher programs. Billed as offering "a la carte school choice to Louisiana students and families, one course at a time" by the state education department, the program was approved this year as part of a larger education package. Although it's been largely overshadowed by a companion measure expanding private school vouchers, some observers suggest the ramifications of Course Choice are wider reaching. Under the new program, public dollars--in the form of a slice of local districts' combined state and local aid--will cover course fees (with some limits) for any student attending a public school rated C, D, or F under the state accountability system. Students in an A or B school may be eligible if their school does not offer a course equivalent to one approved by the state. Theoretically, students could earn most of their credits through alternative providers. Although the program is open throughout K-12, state officials and outside experts say they expect it will be most common at the high school level. Organizations that have applied to join Louisiana's new marketplace include many national online-learning companies, such as Sylvan Learning and Apex Learning, as well as some local entities, including the Pelican chapter of the nonprofit Associated Builders and Contractors, Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in Baton Rouge, and the state-run Louisiana Educational Television Authority. The initiative, however, is getting mixed reviews. One complaint is the potential financial loss for districts. Also, some skeptics say quality control is a huge concern, and they question whether the state will successfully maintain it. Meanwhile, several Louisiana education groups, including the two teachers' unions, have waged a legal challenge to Course Choice and other key provisions of the new school choice law. They argue that the state lacks the constitutional authority to redirect public funds intended for local districts. A hearing by a state district court is scheduled for next month.
Descriptors: Credits, Accountability, Charter Schools, Quality Control, School Choice, Unions, Educational Vouchers, Virtual Classrooms, Online Courses, Educational Finance, Financial Support, School Districts, Elementary Secondary Education
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Louisiana