Public dollars for private education is coming. When?

At a ceremony at Our Lady of Fatima School this week, Gov. Jeff Landry signed a bill creating Louisiana's education savings account program, formally called the Louisiana GATOR Scholarship Program.

The program is the centerpiece of a larger education reform agenda spearheaded by the governor and conservative allies, which includes other controversial measures like requiring schools to post the Ten Commandments, removing Covid-19 vaccination requirements and limiting discussion of sex and gender identity in the classroom.

GATOR scholarship accounts will be the vehicle for parents to access public dollars to pay for education costs, including tuition to private schools, school supplies and tutoring.

It's not clear when parents can access those funds or how much funding will be available. The program does not take effect until money is appropriated by the Legislature, which has not yet happened.

As written, the GATOR program will be budgeted and overseen by the Department of Education and rolled out in phases. Income restrictions will determine eligibility as the program comes online, but eventually be lifted, making the program universal.

Critics, including voices from both conservative and liberal circles, raised concern about the program's cost once eligibility would extend to all students. Similar programs in other states have ballooned in cost. Supporters say the program empowers parents to make better educational choices for their children.