Ruling halts implementation of Louisiana voucher plan

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A federal judge in Louisiana dealt a setback to Gov. Bobby's Jindal's statewide voucher program on Nov. 26, when he ruled that the program conflicts with a desegregation order in Tangipahoa Parish.

Almost half of the state's parish and city school districts are under similar federal desegregation orders, so the ruling could have broader implications, because many of those parishes also are participating in the voucher program. In addition, hearings are pending soon on lawsuits the Louisiana Federation of Teachers filed in June challenging the constitutionality of two of Jindal's signature education initiatives. (See earlier story.)

"There is an old axiom that says 'haste makes waste,' and Gov. Jindal certainly created a lot of waste with the agenda that he rammed through the Legislature last session," LFT president Steve Monaghan says. "There has been a waste of taxpayer dollars, a waste of time and a waste of resources that should have been dedicated to true education reform in our state."

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle agreed with the Tangipahoa Parish School Board that both Act 1 and Act 2 of the 2012 legislative session conflict with an agreement that allows the parish's schools to operate within federal desegregation guidelines.

Act 1 changes tenure laws, hiring and firing policies, and compensation. It removes teacher employment from the jurisdiction of school boards and redefines the role of local school superintendents.

Act 2, among other changes, radically redefines public education by expanding the state's voucher program, which pays tuition to private and religious schools by taking the funding for vouchers from public education's Minimum Foundation Program. [Dan Gursky, Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Associated Press]

November 28, 2012