A small religious school in DeRidder has been blocked from participating in the state’s voucher program for the second straight year.
On Wednesday, the Department of Education said 133 private schools have been approved to receive voucher students in the 2013-14 school year, up from 117 schools this year.
Only one school in the state was deemed ineligible: BeauVer Christian Academy in DeRidder. BeauVer was also rejected last year because of concerns that the campus wasn’t equipped to handle the students.
BeauVer, which repeatedly failed to pass inspection by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, was one of the four area schools initially approved for the Louisiana Scholarship Program along with Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake.
Both schools were dropped from the program because they did not meet the state's final criteria for the voucher program.
Schools in Southwest Louisiana approved to accept vouchers are St. Theodore’s Holy Family Catholic School in Moss Bluff and Our Lady’s School in Sulphur.
The student application was released Wednesday, available online and at participating schools, with a March 15 deadline.
Superintendent of Education John White is moving ahead with a new year of the Louisiana Scholarship Program, even as questions remain about how the voucher slots will be funded.
A Baton Rouge judge declared voucher financing through the public school funding formula to be unconstitutional. If the Louisiana Supreme Court upholds the ruling, lawmakers would have to pay for the program another way to continue the vouchers.
The education department estimated vouchers will cost the state about $25 million this school year, with more than 4,900 students enrolled.
The taxpayer-financed tuition at private and parochial schools is available to students from low- to moderate-income families who otherwise would attend public schools graded with a C, D or F by the state. Priority is given to students in D- and F-rated schools.
If more students apply than slots are available, the seats are awarded through a lottery process. Applicants will find out if they’ve received a voucher by mid-April.
White said the education department will decide how many vouchers will be available to each approved school by March 15. Schools that weren’t accredited received site visits before they were approved to participate in the program, he said.