East Baton Rouge Parish Voters Support Creation of New School Voucher Program

72% support idea of school choice, large majorities want vouchers

Baton Rouge, LA (April 14, 2011) – 72% of voters in East Baton Rouge Parish support school choice and a majority favor creating a voucher program similar to the highly successful one in New Orleans, according to a poll released today by the Louisiana Federation for Children (www.Louisiana4Children.org).

The poll, conducted by the Baton Rouge-based Southern Media and Opinion Research, found that there is strong and significant demand for a school choice program in East Baton Rouge Parish; 52 percent of respondents support the creation of a program there like the popular Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) program in Orleans Parish.

This desire for expanded educational options is coupled with the startling finding that fewer than 2% of those surveyed give traditional public schools an “A” grade, and over 56 percent agree that the public school system in East Baton Rouge Parish is “broken” and that parents and children need more options now.

Survey respondents favor the SSEE program by a 21-point margin over those who oppose it. The program gives vouchers to children at failing schools in Orleans Parish to attend private schools of their parents choosing. Almost 60 percent of East Baton Rouge Parish voters disagree that the SSEE program should only serve Orleans Parish residents.

“These results make crystal clear the need to expand this successful and popular program beyond New Orleans, so that families across the state have access to the educational options that many have been denied for so long,” said Shree’ Medlock, state director of the Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options and a Baton Rouge resident. “We hope that legislators will follow the will of the people and bring school choice to greater Louisiana.”

The SSEE program currently serves nearly 1,700 students at 33 schools in Orleans Parish. Enacted three years ago to give educational options to low-income families and children in failing schools, enrollment in the program has grown each year, resulting in waiting lists at many eligible schools.

There is both broad support for school choice and specifically for the SSEE program among East Baton Rouge voters; more than seven in 10 voters support school choice, according to the poll results. Fewer than three in 10 voters were familiar the SSEE program by name, but support was strong after voters were read a short description of the program.

Southern Media and Opinion Research surveyed 400 East Baton Rouge Parish School System frequent voters via phone from March 28-30, 2011. Voters in Baker, Central, and Zachary school systems were not included in the sample. Louisiana Federation for Children is a project of the national school choice organization American Federation for Children, which sponsored the poll.