PART II. SCHOOL CHOICE PROGRAM
§4031. School choice program; students with exceptionalities; establishment; purpose; student eligibility; nonpublic school eligibility; educational certificates; administration; implementation; reporting
A. The purpose of the program established in this Section is to provide certain students with exceptionalities the opportunity to attend schools of their parents' choosing that provide educational services that specifically address the needs of such students.
B.(1) The School Choice Program for Certain Students with Exceptionalities, hereinafter referred to as the "program", is hereby established in each parish having a population in excess of one hundred ninety thousand persons according to the most recent federal decennial census.
(2) Any student who meets all of the following criteria is an eligible student:
(a) The student has been evaluated by a local education agency as defined in R.S. 17:1942, is determined to be in need of services for autism, a mental disability, emotional disturbance, developmental delay, other health impairment, specific learning disability, or traumatic brain injury, and has one of the following plans: an Individual Education Plan, a services plan in accordance with Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 300.37, or a plan that is created by the nonpublic school that the student will attend and that clearly identifies the services provided by the school and specifies how those services adequately address the student's needs.
(b) The student is eligible to attend public school.
(c) Repealed by Acts 2014, No. 272, §2.
C.(1) The state Department of Education, hereafter in this Part referred to as the "department", shall administer and provide for implementation of the program pursuant to rules and regulations developed and adopted for such purpose by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act. Such rules and regulations shall include procedures and guidelines permitting a parent or guardian of an eligible student who chooses to enroll the student in an eligible nonpublic school as provided in Subsection D of this Section to apply for an educational certificate, which is to be applied to the cost of educational services offered by the school and which is redeemable by the school from the department upon verification from the school that the student is enrolled in the school. The value of each certificate shall be determined by the department; the value shall be equivalent to fifty percent of the per pupil allocation of state funds to the city, parish, or other local public school district in which the eligible student is residing for that school year but shall not exceed the amount of tuition charged by the eligible nonpublic school. The funds to be paid for a certificate shall be divided into four equal payments to be made to each participating school in September, November, February, and May of each school year. Payments shall be based on per pupil count dates as determined by the department.
(2) Any cost of educational services above the amount of the certificate issued to the parent or guardian shall not be paid by the state.
D.(1) To be eligible to participate in the program and accept eligible students for enrollment in the program, a nonpublic school shall meet all of the following criteria:
(a) Be approved by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education pursuant to R.S. 17:11 and have been so approved for the school year prior to the school's participation in the program.
(b) Comply with the criteria set forth in Brumfield, et al. v. Dodd, et al. 425 F. Supp. 528.
(c) Has existed and provided educational services to students with exceptionalities as defined in R.S. 17:1942, excluding students deemed to be gifted or talented, for at least two years prior to participation in the program and such provision of services shall be pursuant to an established program in place at the school that includes instruction by teachers holding appropriate certification in special education or other appropriate education or training as defined by the department and that is in accordance with a student's Individual Education Plan and rules and regulations developed as required in this Section.
(2) In accordance with time lines as determined by the department, each eligible nonpublic school choosing to participate in the program shall inform the department of the types of student exceptionalities as defined in R.S. 17:1942 that the school is willing to serve. Each school may determine the number of eligible students it will accept in any year of program participation and may establish criteria for enrollment of students. Each school shall have discretion in enrolling eligible students for participation in the program and no school shall be required to accept any eligible student.
(3) No eligible nonpublic school shall require any student seeking to enroll and participate in the program to take an entrance examination.
(4) Prior to enrollment, each eligible nonpublic school shall inform the parent or guardian of an eligible student of all rules, policies, and procedures of such school including but not limited to academic policies and disciplinary policies and procedures. Enrollment of an eligible student in the school shall constitute acceptance of such rules, policies, and procedures by the parent or guardian individually and on behalf of the eligible student. An eligible student may be expelled from the school in accordance with the school's discipline policies or may be disqualified from enrollment if the student is no longer eligible for the program as determined by the department.
(5) Enrollment of eligible students shall be completed not later than April thirtieth of the school year prior to the year of participation by the school, and the school shall submit a list of all eligible students enrolled in the school to the department not later than June first of such year.
E.(1) The department shall submit a report to the House Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Education not later than August 1, 2012, on the implementation of the program. The report shall include but shall not be limited to the number of eligible students participating in the program, the name of each participating nonpublic school, and the number of eligible students each school enrolled for participation in the program.
(2) The department shall submit a report to the House Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Education not later than December 1, 2014, on the implementation of the program. The report shall include but shall not be limited to the same information required in Paragraph (1) of this Subsection and also shall include the department's recommendations as to whether the program should continue in the program eligible parishes or be implemented statewide.
Acts 2010, No. 515, §1; Acts 2012, No. 424, §1; Acts 2014, No. 272, §§1, 2.