05/08/2013

Louisiana vouchers unconstitutional, court says

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The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled on May 7 that the state's funding of its school voucher program is unconstitutional.

AFT president Randi Weingarten called the decision "a stinging rebuke of Gov. Jindal's agenda to strip Louisiana public schools of the resources they desperately need. This victory also makes clear that nobody is above the law. I applaud the Louisiana Federation of Teachers for its work to uphold the rule of law on behalf of Louisiana's children and families."

LFT president Steve Monaghan says the court affirmed what the union has believed all along: "Our constitution clearly states that public education's minimum foundation program is reserved for public schools and public school systems. The ruling is a victory for the constitution and for the rule of law. It is a rebuff to an administration that railroaded the voucher bill through the Legislature. The court restated the simple fact that no governor, and no legislature, has the right to ride roughshod over the foundational principles of our government."

The high court ruled that Act 2 of 2012 violated Article VIII, Section 13(b), of the Louisiana Constitution, which states that the MFP formula "shall be used to determine the cost of a minimum foundation program of education in all public elementary and secondary schools as well as to equitably allocate the funds to parish and city school systems."

The court did not rule on the educational merits of the programs, only on the constitutionality of the funding mechanism. The ruling leaves in question the future of a voucher scheme that enrolled nearly 5,000 students this year, and has already expanded to another 3,000 for the coming school year.

"It is regrettable that there is now some confusion about where those children will attend school," Monaghan says. "But that is the fault of the governor and his allies. Not only was the voucher program patently unconstitutional, but it placed children into schools without adequate oversight and with no assurance of quality instruction."

The suit against the voucher scheme was first filed by the LFT in June 2012. (See earlier story.) The LFT was joined in the suit by the Louisiana Association of Educators, the Louisiana School Boards Association and some 43 local school districts. [Louisiana Federation of Teachers, AFT press release]

May 8, 2013