Cost of education savings accounts for Louisiana in dispute Opponents feel private schools won’t be held to adequate accountability standards

A proposal that would allow families to steer Louisiana public education dollars to private schools — regardless of their income — is expected to cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, with a wide gap between legislative calculations and a good government group’s projections.
As an education savings account bill from Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, advances through the Legislature, its fiscal impact is gaining more attention with the state expected to see a $650 million drop in tax revenue starting midyear 2025.
The House Committee on Education advanced Emerson’s House Bill 745 without objection Tuesday, nearly a week after a comparable Senate version was approved.
Although opponents have said her legislation would ultimately hurt public education, Emerson said that isn’t her objective.
“Even some of our schools that are excelling and highly rated, I think do have a small subset of students who are not excelling. But they might would excel in a different environment … or with different curriculum, and this bill is for their students,” Emerson said. “It would empower their parents to be able to put them in a situation where they can thrive, and we can create better education outcomes for our state and our students here.”
Projections from the Legislative Fiscal Office show the Louisiana Giving All True Opportunity to Rise (LA GATOR) Scholarship Program that Emerson wants to create will cost the state more than $241 million in the 2028-2029 school year. More than 41,000 students are expected to draw from education savings accounts once house income limits and certain priority statuses are waived.
In the following year, the cost is predicted to increase to nearly $260 million although there is no accompanying number for how many students will take part in the LA GATOR program.
The Legislature’s figures for both years are far less than the $520 million annual cost the Public Affairs Council of Louisiana (PAR) forecasts.
PAR President Steven Procopio appeared Tuesday before the House Education Committee and explained the difference in cost comes from the likelihood families with students already in private schools will tap into the program. Unlike public school students who will gain access to the money that would have been spent on them anyway, the expense for private school students would have to come another state source.
“That’s a significant price tag that could see the state paying for private school costs for some families that never intended to send their children to public school, a questionable use of limited state tax dollars,” Procopio wrote in a commentary published Tuesday morning.
Jan Moller with Invest in Louisiana, an economic prosperity advocacy group, agreed that the legislative estimates don’t account for private school family interest in education savings accounts.
“What this bill does is create a brand new entitlement program where we’re going to pay at $5,19o of government money per year to more than a 107,000 families in Louisiana who’ve already made the decision to choose a private school for their child,” Moller said.
The projections for annual state spending from the Legislative Fiscal Office and PAR are likely both low, Moller said, based on the experience of other states.
Emerson’s bill would take effect in the 2026-2027 school year, when recipients in the state’s existing school voucher program will be given priority along with families with household income below 250% of the federal poverty guidelines ($78,000 a year for a family of four). Income barriers wouldn’t be lifted until year three of the program.
More than three-quarters of the 7,260 predicted participants for the first year of the LA GATOR program are expected to come from the current Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program. In order to receive a voucher, a student must come from a school that has a C, D or F school performance grade — a requirement that wouldn’t apply to Emerson’s proposal
Among the critiques of Emerson’s proposal was that it doesn’t require students who use education savings accounts to attend private schools to take the same Louisiana Education Assessment Program test required of public school students. Instead, the LA GATOR program would rely on existing standardized tests.
Since 2011, 15 states have created education savings account programs. Seven are open to almost all families without any income restrictions, and eight give priorities to those with students from low-income households or who have special needs.

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