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A New Era for Louisiana With Universal Education Freedom: Andrew Handel on WGSO

By: Andrew Handel

ALEC Education & Workforce Development Task Force Director Andrew Handel spoke to WGSO host Jeff Crouere about Louisiana’s new education freedom program, Giving All True Opportunity to Rise (GATOR), which provides scholarship accounts to parents. They highlighted the program’s potential to empower parents, increase per-pupil spending in public schools, and improve educational outcomes. Later, they discussed school choice programs in Louisiana and other states, emphasizing their potential to create state education savings accounts for low-income families and improve educational outcomes.

Louisiana’s GATOR Program

Handel highlighted the recent victory in Louisiana, where Governor Landry signed the Gator program (SB 313) into law. This makes Louisiana the 12th state to offer universal education freedom. The GATOR program empowers parents by providing scholarship accounts funded by the state portion of educational funds. These funds can be used for various pre-approved educational expenses such as private school tuition, instructional materials, and therapies for students with special needs. The program aims to ensure that every student in the state can attend the school that best fits their individual needs, thereby putting parents in charge of their children’s education. Handel expressed excitement about the program’s potential to enhance educational options for Louisiana families.

“It’s a really exciting way to put parents in charge and empower them and recognize that there are plenty of students for whom local public school is going to be the best fit for them. But there are also plenty of students who might thrive in a nearby private school or virtual school. We want to make sure that all those different options are available to them, and that the money follows those students.“- Andrew Handel

Impact and Future of School Choice

Finally, in addressing concerns about the impact on public education, Handel explained that the state portion of educational funds will follow the student, while local and federal funds remain with public schools. This model often results in higher per-pupil spending in public schools and encourages competition, driving public schools to improve performance. The GATOR program’s phased implementation will initially target low-income families and gradually expand to cover all students in Louisiana. Handel had noted that this phased approach has been successful in other states and would take three to five years to fully implement. Looking ahead, Handel mentioned that Texas is on the verge of passing similar school choice legislation, potentially creating the largest universal school choice program in the country. The growing trend of school choice initiatives reflects a broader movement towards empowering parents and enhancing educational opportunities for all students.


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