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In Louisiana, Course-by-Course Choice

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My colleague Erik Robelen has a terrific story out examining Louisiana's plans to create "a la carte school choice," or a system that allows students to use a slice of public money to take individual courses from online providers, private schools, and even other school districts.

It's an intriguing, and possibly unprecedented idea, at least on scale being tried on the bayou. The program was created earlier this year as part of legislation that dramatically expanded the state's private school voucher system. While the voucher plan received far more attention than the choice-of-course system, the latter program ultimately may have a greater impact, some Louisianans predict.

Students in schools that receive C, D, or F grades in the state's academic grading system will be eligible to receive public money for individual courses. Students in A and B schools can get that money, too, if the schools they attend don't offer the classes they want.

One of the biggest challenges Louisiana will face, the story suggests, is ensuring some measure of quality for the flood of new course titles being dangled before students and their families. The list of potential course providers so far is broad and diverse—not just the Sylvan Learnings and Apex Learnings of the world but trade groups like a builders-and-contractors association, which according to the story is looking to generate a bigger qualified workforce in construction in the state.

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