Department of Education says 5,000 voucher slots available

More than 5,000 seats will be available for students who qualify for state subsidies to attend private and parochial schools, the state Department of Education announced Tuesday morning.

The slots cover 125 schools in 33 parishes, the agency said.

Participating schools in East Baton Rouge Parish are Trinity Christian Academy; The Dunham School; St. Michael the Archangel High School; St. Louis King of France; St. Francies Xavier; St. Alphonsus School; Riverdale Christian Academy; Redemptorist Junior High School; Redemptorist High School; Redemptorist Elementary; Our Lady of Mercy School; Louisiana New School Academy; Jehova-Jire Christian Academy; Hosanna Christian Academy; Greater Mt. Olive Christian Academy and Angles Academy.

Seats available range from four kindergarten seats at The Dunham School to 200 from kindergarten through 12th grade at Hosanna Christian Academy.

A total of 836 seats are available at schools in East Baton Rouge Parish. Another 159 were offered at schools in Ascension Parish.

Under a new state law, low and middle-income students who attend “C,” “D” and “F” schools can seek the aid, which backers call scholarships and which opponents call vouchers.

Income for a family of four cannot exceed 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which is $50,000-$55,000 per year.

“We are very pleased by the strong participation of schools and the opportunity to provide students and families across Louisiana with quality alternatives,” State Superintendent of Education John White said in a prepared statement.

Backers call the subsidies a way out of failing public schools.

Opponents contend the aid will damage an already ailing public school system, and use dollars intended strictly for public schools.

The classroom seats are in addition to 2,300 slots offered to students in New Orleans for a voucher plan that began in 2008.

The state has about 700,000 public school students attending roughly 1,300 public schools.

Another 380 non-public schools have been approved by state educators, including 187 Roman Catholic schools used by about 80,000 students.

Another 40,000 students attend private schools.

White said earlier that he expects about 2,000 students to apply for the aid for the 2012-13 school year.