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How Charter Schools Work in Louisiana

Charter schools are schools that are publicly funded but independently run. This unique operation model sets charter schools apart from traditional public schools and gives them more freedom over things like curricula, staffing, and budgeting.

Charter schools have been the norm in New Orleans since 2005, when the city began rebuilding and reopening its schools after Hurricane Katrina. But many Louisiana parents—especially those who don’t live in New Orleans—may have questions about the role charter schools play in the state’s education system.

In our article “How Do Charter Schools Work?”, we covered the ins and outs of what charter schools are and how they differ from traditional public schools and private schools. Below, we’ll take a closer look at Louisiana’s charter school system specifically.


Louisiana’s first charter school law was passed in 1995—around the same time that the charter school movement was gaining traction in other states around the country. This initial law established a charter school pilot program for eight school districts. The program was expanded to all Louisiana school districts in 1997, but there was still a cap on the total number of charter schools allowed to operate in the state.

In 2003, Louisiana created the Recovery School District (RSD), allowing the state to take control of low-performing public schools and convert them into charter schools.

Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, most schools in New Orleans became charter schools. The state removed its cap on charter school growth, and by 2014, nearly all of New Orleans’ schools were charter schools overseen by the RSD.

Today, New Orleans still follows an all-charter school model. Charter schools are also becoming more common in other parts of the state.


Data from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools shows that as of the 2020–21 school year, there were 146 charter schools in Louisiana, serving over 87,000 students in total. Approximately 47,000 of these students reside in the Orleans Parish School Board district, where charter school enrollment sits at 98.8%.

As you research charter schools in your area, be sure to reach out to the schools you’re interested in to see if they have any specific requirements for enrollment. Louisiana charter schools that have been converted from traditional public schools will give preference to students who were enrolled in the preexisting school. Other charter schools are only able to accept students who reside in specific school districts.

To enroll your child in a Louisiana charter school, you’ll need to fill out an application. If a school receives more applications than available seats, students will be chosen via a lottery system.


Like any public school, Louisiana charter schools are funded through taxpayer dollars. They are completely free to attend.

The amount of state funding Louisiana charter schools receive varies based on how many students are enrolled. Louisiana charter schools also receive funding from local revenue sources such as sales taxes and property taxes.


Louisiana charter schools are held accountable by authorized public chartering agencies. Whenever a new charter school opens—or whenever a traditional public school converts to a charter school—it is required to sign a contract with a local authorizer.

In Louisiana, charter schools are authorized by a local school board or by the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). Louisiana charter schools are categorized into different “types” depending on whether the school is new or converted and whether it is authorized by a school district or by the BESE. Specific laws regarding oversight and governance vary depending on the type of charter law.

That said, all Louisiana charter schools—no matter the type—are required to meet performance benchmarks laid out by their charter authorizer. Additionally, they need to meet all state academic standards. Due to this increased level of accountability, Louisiana charter schools often outperform the state’s traditional public schools.

Learn more about our two BASIS Baton Rouge campuses

BASIS Charter Schools operates two schools in Louisiana, both of them in Baton Rouge. BASIS Baton Rouge Primary Mid City serves grades K–5 while BASIS Baton Rouge Materra serves grades K–9. Our Materra campus will be adding a grade level each year and will be serving grades K–12 by the 2026–27 school year.

Our two Baton Rouge schools are open to all students residing in the East Baton Rouge Parish School District. Students follow the acclaimed BASIS Charter School Curriculum, building skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and innovation. Schedule a tour today to learn more about our network of top-performing, tuition-free, public charter schools.

For more information on different education options available for your family, download our guide, “A Parent’s Guide to School Choice.”

Amy Licht
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