POSTED: Monday, February 11, 2013 - 6:30pm
UPDATED: Monday, February 11, 2013 - 6:34pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — More and more families here in the Capital City are making financial sacrifices for their kid’s elementary education at private schools. But they often find out once they've started paying for a private education, they can't get any help from the state's scholarship program, thanks to the way the law is written.
Jovan Ayo's day starts early, She works a 12 hour shift, seven days a week at a local plant to help send three of her four kids to Hosanna Christian Academy.
"When I get up in the morning I think about, this is going to be the best thing for them. I’ve really watched them both. All three, excel at Hosanna," Ayo explained.
She had applied for the state's scholarship program over the summer; she had hoped to get all three of her school-aged kids out of their failing schools. But her plan hit a snag when only one of her three kids got a voucher in the lottery.
"It was a little heartbreaking, but I just prayed about it and I made a decision that I was going to work as hard as I could for them to go," Ayo shared of her decision.
And with a lot of hard work, and some financial help from Hosanna, her kids have thrived at the private school. But Ayo has another worry, now she's put her kids in to a private school with her own money they're no longer eligible to apply for the scholarship program. With the way the law is written, any child already in a private school is no longer eligible to apply for the program unless they attend a failing public school for at least a year. Ayo told NBC33 she didn’t want to wait another year in the hopes that her other two children may receive vouchers.
"I do feel like that is a punishment, 'I've chosen this over that so now we're not going to help you.' Yeah,'" Ayo explained.
So now she's left paying the high price of tuition herself. It's an anomaly in the law Education Chair Representative Stephen Carter said legislators didn't anticipate when writing the law.
"If it is a problem then I would like to know, and I think the department should know. And if there is a problem and there's a way to fix it then obviously I’d be receptive to it,” Carter said, “That's the good thing about this, is that you have an opportunity to make a difference, but you also have an opportunity to make it even better."
Ayo said she would like to see the law fixed so she can at least apply for all of her kids to have the chance at a scholarship next school year. Until that time though, she said, she'll do everything in her power to pay the price of education for her little ones.
"If I have to do it until they get out of school, and I tell you this, I don't know what's going to happen with the scholarship program, I am going to apply for my little one. But if he doesn't get it then I am going to pay for him too," Ayo said.
Next month the future of the voucher law will be decided in a New Orleans courtroom. In November a Baton Rouge judge ruled that the scholarship program was unconstitutional, and said the state didn't have the authority to expand the program. In March the state will attempt to appeal that decision and protect the program.