Troubled New Orleans Voucher School Loses Federal Funding After WWNO-Joint Investigation

May 21, 2019

A joint investigation between WWNO, Fox 8 News, WVUE and NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune on the state’s school voucher program found evidence one New Orleans school may have been cheating on state tests. Now the school says federal funds are being pulled from its pre-K program. 

McMillian’s First Steps Academy on Claiborne Avenue is a private elementary school where 100 percent of the student body uses state vouchers to pay tuition. The school also has an pre-K program that’s funded in-part through federal dollars that help low-income families afford childcare. But now, the school says it’s losing that federal funding after the WWNO-joint investigation revealed state inspectors found evidence of cheating on state tests at the elementary school.

Parent Lashawn Futrell has a three-year-old in McMillian's pre-K program. She says questions about the elementary school - the “Academy” - should not impact the preschool.

"If they’re going to continue their investigation into the Academy part, that’s fine," she said. "But to pull funding that’s gonna impact the children, impact the teachers not having jobs, impact the parents who depend on the program, who have to go to work, and now we have to hastily try find somewhere to go - I think it’s very inconsiderate."

LSU-Health administers the federal funding as part of the Early Head Start Childcare Partnership. A spokeswoman for LSU-Health says McMillian received more than $800,000 through the program during the 2018-2019 school year. She also confirmed that LSU-Health decided not to sign a new contract with McMillian’s First Steps. 

Linda McMillian, who owns and operates the school, refused to comment. 

The joint-investigation into the state's school voucher program was a collaboration organized by Reveal, from The Center For Investigative Reporting.