The number of Louisiana students who want to be part of the state’s Course Choice pilot program is surging with more than 1,000 students now on the waiting list, and hundreds more are expected to sign up ahead of the start of the school year. State superintendent John White said yesterday that his department is combing through its budget to try to find at least another $1.5 million to fund the program.
“This is overwhelming demand," White said, on a conference call with reporters. "Had there been any indication that demand would be this high, perhaps a lottery could have been conducted? We’re still hoping that we’ll be able to serve every kid.”
Course Choice gives students access to hundreds of in-person and online courses unavailable at their schools. White said many of the students on the wait list are in Caddo, Claiborne and rural parishes of the state where access to high school credit courses for middle school students is hard to find, especially in failing schools.
“There are such large rural districts with small populations in north Louisiana. It’s hard, sometimes, to offer algebra in the 8th grade, for example. It just is expensive," White said. "At the same time, those schools know that having your kids enrolled in algebra in the 8th grade is a critical thing for success.”
The pilot program reached capacity at about 2,000 students earlier this month when all of the $2 million allocated by the state was used up. White said his department should make a decision within the next week on whether they will be able to fund courses for the students currently on the wait list.