Louisiana voters are constantly hearing candidates for governor and legislature talk about crime and insurance as high priorities they vow to tackle soon after taking office—and they will surely take action in 2024. But a new poll shows a big priority on voters’ minds: ensuring educational freedom for Louisiana children.

In fact, a whopping 62% of voters support giving Louisiana parents the ability to use state funds to select the school of their choice for their child’s education, and only 25% oppose. This priority is supported by every demographic and across party lines, which is significant as support is usually not bipartisan in other states. The poll, which was conducted by Cor Strategies in partnership with the Pelican Institute, can be viewed here.

Voters may not hear as much about education this election season, but they surely will come January. I’m not talking about teacher pay raises; those are sure to be addressed, and strengthening the teaching profession is important. I’m talking about the key priority identified in the poll: what the State of Louisiana plans to do to give every every child the ability to attend a school or educational program that best fits his or her individual needs.

Article 101 of the Louisiana Children’s Code contains some profound statements about the role of families when it comes to their kids’ education: “The people of Louisiana recognize the family as the most fundamental unit of human society; that preserving families is essential to a free society; that the relationship between parent and child is preeminent in establishing and maintaining the well-being of the child; that parents have the responsibility for providing the basic necessities of life as well as love and affection to their children; that parents have the paramount right to raise their children in accordance with their own values and traditions; that parents should make the decisions regarding…the educational, moral, ethical, and religious training of the child, the medical, psychiatric, surgical, and preventive health care of the child, and the discipline of the child; that children owe to their parents respect, obedience, and affection; that the role of the state in the family is limited and should only be asserted when there is a serious threat to the family, the parents, or the child; and that extraordinary procedures established by law are meant to be used only when required by necessity, and then with due respect for the rights of the parents, the children, and the institution of the family, and only to the extent that such procedures are not prohibited by the Louisiana Constitution of 1974, as amended.”

How can Louisiana ensure that all families can exercise these rights, and not just those with financial means? It starts with allowing state funding that is spent on children’s education to “follow the child” to the school or educational setting chosen by their family.

All kids are different, and as such, they make for different students in the classroom. What works for one may not work for another, even in a “good” school. Kids also deal with a lot these days, whether it’s school safety, bullying, or social pressures we couldn’t have imagined years ago.

Add to that the fact that Louisiana’s public school system has experienced challenges for many years. While steady incremental improvement in student academic achievement has been achieved, Louisiana continues to lag behind most other states, even with per student funding relatively healthy. Today, just 33 percent of students attending public schools are proficient or considered to be on grade level in core academic subjects. An astounding 40 percent of public school graduates need remediation in math as they enter college, and 25 percent need remediation in English. Many children are assigned to a single government-run school, and without their family having financial resources, have no other educational options if that one school isn’t working for them.

A solid education is perhaps the biggest determinant of personal self-sufficiency and a thriving economy.

That’s why several other states have recently passed programs called Education Savings Accounts or Education Scholarship Accounts to empower families to better meet their child’s educational needs. Through these programs, they get to direct their child’s state education dollars to the school or program of their choice, whether it’s a private school, virtual school, home-based school, hybrid/flex program, or even a different public school. They’re wildly popular because they can be customized to fit the child’s needs and the family’s priorities.

Governor Edwards vetoed similar legislation in 2022, but leading candidates for governor and the legislature have vowed to provide families relief when they take office in January. No longer will they allow a child’s future to be determined by their zip code or their family’s income.

Do you want to learn more about how these programs work? Here’s a helpful website and short video by our friends at Ed Choice, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to empowering every family to choose the schooling environment that fits their children’s needs best.

You can also watch powerful stories of educational freedom in Louisiana here.

It’s time to rewrite Louisiana’s story, and it begins with a great education for every child. Our kids only grow up once; as new leaders take office in January, let’s leverage the momentum for positive change to give Louisiana’s kids and our state a bright future.