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Six Democrats in Louisiana buck party line by supporting universal school choice: 'Political ramifications'

Six Louisiana Democrats bucked their party line on Monday by supporting a universal school choice bill, setting the state up to join the wave of red states who passed the measure.

Six Louisiana Democrats bucked their party line by supporting universal school choice after a bill passed the state's House chamber on Monday.

"I know the political ramifications for me for voting for this bill," Louisiana Democratic State Rep. Jason Hughes said on the House chamber floor before the bill passed by a supermajority 71-32 vote.

Democrats have historically voted against school choice measures, with one reason being that teachers unions, who oppose school choice, heavily donate to them. 

Teachers unions oppose school choice because they claim it siphons off taxpayer funding that is being allocated to other educational options and instead could be used to boost teachers' salaries, invest in public school facilities, and recruit more teachers. 


Although the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers are some of the largest donors to Democratic campaigns, they have recently donated to Republican candidates who lobby against school choice policies.

The other state Democrats that voted for the bill were Steven Jackson, Shreveport; Marcus Bryant, New Iberia; Travis Johnson, Vidalia; Larry Selders, Baton Rouge and Joy Walters, Shreveport.

Louisiana is poised to pass a universal school choice bill, HB 475, sponsored by State Rep. Julie Emerson, which would distribute education savings accounts (ESAs) to all Louisiana children. The bill would provide ESAs for families who want to opt out of their neighborhood public school and send their children to a private institution.

The ESA is a school choice model adopted by several other states that enables parents to use public funds to cover a variety of education expenses, including private school tuition, instructional materials, and homeschooling costs.

The bill will now head to the Louisiana Senate for review.

"But I don't need this $16,800 a year job bad enough to watch our children continue to live in poverty, trapped in failing schools, and not try to do something," Hughes said.

He added, "And in the event I'm not reelected, this is what I know: my steps are ordered. My heart is pure. I came here to do tough things. I came here to make tough decisions. And I came here to put children first."

The passing of the bill came after Hughes said that he could no longer allow children in poverty to be trapped in a failing school.


"What do those families do? When a child is trapped in a failing school, a parent is working a minimum wage job, they can’t afford to do anything but leave their child in that failing school – what do we do? Do we just say I’m sorry and just leave that child in a failing school? What is the alternative for that child?," he said. 

Hughes was the only Democrat to vote for a bill that passed the Louisiana Appropriations Committee by a 13 to 8 vote. 

If passed, Louisiana would become the 11th state to pass universal school choice, a trend occurring among red states in the United States.

"Nearly 20% of Louisiana House Democrats voted for universal school choice and the bill passed the chamber with supermajority support. The tide is turning," American Federation For Children senior fellow Corey DeAngelis told Fox News Digital after the bill passed the Louisiana House chamber. "The special interests desperately fighting to protect the status quo are losing control." 

School choice, or providing all families with alternatives to the public schools they’re zoned for, can be expanded through multiple avenues at the state level, including school voucher programs, tax-credit scholarship programs, individual tuition tax credit programs and deductions, and ESAs. 


Universal school choice made significant gains in the past couple of years when a wave of red states passed legislation into law. Alabama recently passed universal school choice and more states are looking to follow this year.

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