Course choice enrollment rises

The state has room for about 4,000 enrollments by public school students taking classes through online and other novel ways, which is double the original plan, state Superintendent of Education John White said Thursday.

The classes, which are called course choice, earlier appeared headed for a total enrollment of about 2,000 students at a cost of $2 million.

White said that, because of heavy demand, state officials freed up another $1 million and all the students on the waiting list will be served.

“It is a great day when we can provide more choice for Louisiana families,” White said. “Their demands are clear. They want alternatives for their kids.”

Course choice stems from a 2012 law pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Backers said it was aimed largely at giving more options for students in public schools rated C, D or F, who can take the classes without charge.

Rural school districts sometime offer fewer courses than those in urban areas.

In other cases, students sign up for college and career classes unavailable at their schools.

The state Supreme Court had struck down initial plans to fund the classes with the same money used to finance traditional public schools.

White then converted course choice to a pilot project.

Critics contend the classes divert crucial dollars from public school operations.

White said the additional $1 million that will allow the state to offer more enrollments will be generated by discontinuing the Iowa Test of Basic Skills for second-graders, which he said is not aligned with Louisiana’s new academic standards.

That represents an $800,000 savings.

White said another $200,000 can be used through reduced travel and supply purchases at the state Department of Education.

Students in East Baton Rouge, Orleans and Jefferson parishes are among the six where demand is heaviest.

Requests have come from 38 parishes.

White said enrollments total 3,424 and applications will be accepted through Aug. 27.

The courses cost about $800 each.

Students in schools rated A or B can take them without charge, if they are not offered in their district.

The more than 3,000 students enrolled so far have requested 90 courses offered by 21 state-approved providers.

Foreign languages, algebra and ACT prep classes are among the most popular.