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Louisiana to Launch Marketplace for Publicly Funded Courses

Louisiana is embarking on an experiment with what the state education department has billed "a la carte school choice ... one course at a time."

As I explain in a new EdWeek story, the state next year will open a marketplace in which students can shop around for publicly funded classes. Essentially, an eligible student (see my story for the fine print) picks one or more classes from a state-approved list, and a slice of their home district's per-pupil aid pays the tab. Potential providers may include virtual-education companies, local nonprofits, universities, or even other school districts.

Several experts tell me the state program, dubbed Course Choice, is unlike anything they've seen, even as it blends ideas from charter and virtual schooling, as well as vouchers.

Louisiana officials say the program will have multiple levels of accountability to ensure quality control, but some observers are skeptical, questioning whether the state will succeed in maintaining it.

You may not have heard about Course Choice yet, as it's been largely overshadowed so far by the state's recent action (in the same legislation) to expand private-school vouchers, but some observers think it may end up reaching far more students.

Whether you find the new program inspired or alarming, don't be surprised if political leaders in some other states take note, and consider pushing the same concept.

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