State Policy Network
Louisiana Passes Universal School Choice 

Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry signed legislation that creates the state’s first Education Savings Account (ESA) program. An ESA is a form of school choice where K-12 students can access funds to help pay for materials related to their education, including private school tuition.  

Also called the “Giving All True Opportunity to Rise” (GATOR) Scholarship Program, students can begin to sign up next spring and start receiving funds in August 2025. The per-student amount(s) will be set by the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). The GATOR program is open to all K-12 students in the state, regardless of income. As the Pelican Institute explains, in addition to using the funds for private school tuition, families can use the GATOR scholarship program to: 

Pelican Institute for Public Policy and Other Groups Work to Bring Education Freedom to Louisiana 

Education freedom finally reached Louisiana because of years of work from many organizations, including the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. For years, Pelican has worked to advance education reforms that empower parents to make the best education choices for their children. 

In 2020, Pelican launched the “A School That Fits” campaign that highlighted how school choice programs can lead to a quality education for every Louisiana kid. Pelican communicated this message through targeted digital advertising with storytelling videos in key legislative districts. 

In 2022, Pelican worked with lawmakers to pass two smaller ESA program bills, but those were vetoed by the former governor. During the 2023 legislative session, a universal ESA bill passed the House but failed in the Senate. These incremental legislative wins provided a tremendous boost in keeping the public conversation about educational freedom alive and a defining policy issue of the most recent election cycle. 

In addition to implementing the “A School that Fits” campaign, Pelican also worked with a small group of ambassadors from rural Louisiana communities who led roundtable discussions with friends and neighbors about ESAs and served as resources and sources of support for their lawmakers on this issue. 

Pelican’s efforts finally paid off in Louisiana’s 2024 legislative session, when lawmakers and the new governor identified ESAs as a top priority. On June 19, 2024, Governor Landry signed the GATOR Scholarship program into law, giving thousands of Louisiana children more options and opportunity when it comes to their education.  

Erin Bendily, the Vice President for Policy and Strategy at the Pelican Institute, noted:  

“We are excited and hopeful about this new chapter in Louisiana’s comeback story and look forward to strong implementation of the GATOR Scholarship Program by our state’s education leaders.” 

Other organizations that were involved in this win include the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Louisiana Family Forum, Louisiana Kids Matter, EdChoice, Yes. Every Kid., Americans for Prosperity, American Federation for Children, and ExcelinEd. 

ESAs: One Way to Improve Academic Outcomes for American Students 

America’s education system is failing to provide our children with the education they need and deserve. Millions of students struggle with poor literacy rates, low math scores, and bullying, among other problems. These students often only have one option when it comes to their education: their zoned public school. And while many public schools excel at preparing students for college, a career, and life, there are some that are not giving children the tools they need to be successful.  

What’s more, students who attend these failing schools often come from low-income households, and don’t have the means to pay for alternative education options like wealthier families do.  

School choice programs like Education Savings Accounts are one solution to this problem. With an ESA in hand, parents that are not satisfied with their public school now have the resources to choose an alternative for their child, whether that’s private school or even home school. 

The Education Freedom Movement Rolls On: Louisiana Now the 11th State with Universal School Choice  

Louisiana is now the 11th state with “universal” school choice, which means all students in the state, regardless of income or district, can access the program. Other states with universal school choice programs include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Utah. 

Related Reading:  

Louisiana Legislature Passes Education Savings Accounts. What’s Next? 
Pelican Institute  

A School That Fits 
Pelican Institute  

Everything You Need to Know about Education Savings Accounts 
State Policy Network  

Organization: State Policy Network