Unable to defeat the major education reform measure in the Louisiana Legislature, opponents are now moving to the next step in an effort to turn back the changes to the way schools operate in the state – by going to court. A number of Louisiana districts and school boards, and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers – the main teachers union in the state – are preparing to face the judge for the first time this week over the lawsuit they filed alleging that the recent changes to the state’s voucher program and new teacher hiring rules violate the Constitution.
According to LFT President Steve Monaghan, everyone involved is preparing for a long and bloody fight. He said that even if the plaintiffs prevail in the first round, he fully expects the administration of Governor Bobby Jindal to continue until its appeals are exhausted — even if that means all the way to the Supreme Court.
Several groups not involved in the lawsuit – including a Libertarian law firm based in Washington D.C., the Institute for Justice – have already publicly spoken out against the lawsuit. But the strongest condemnation came from State Superintendent of Education John White, who accused the LFT and its fellow plaintiffs of wasting time and attempting to dictate to parents who only wish to make the best choices for their children.
Institute for Justice – along with others – is planning to protest in front of the Baton Rouge court house where the first hearings will be held.
The suit was brought by the LFT, Louisiana Association of Educators, Louisiana School Boards Association and 43 local school boards. It challenges the constitutionality of the education overhaul, called Act 2, passed at the end of the last legislation session. The LFT said Act 2 violates Section 3 of the state constitution which says public education funding will go only to public schools and school systems. LFT Director of Public Relations Les Landon told NOLA.com on Monday they are confident in their ability to win the suit.
It’s likely that the full outcome of the lawsuit won’t be known for years, yet according to Monaghan, it will serve to bolster the cause of the plaintiffs even as it travels through the judicial system. Monaghan said that the case has drawn attention not only from people and media from all over Louisiana, but from several high profile national news organizations that have also taken notice. This presents the LFT with an opportunity to draw attention to what Monaghan terms “legislative oversight and independence.”