Judge Rules Against Louisiana Voucher Program, State Appeals

Judge Tim Kelley didn't say "Wait, wait! There's more!" when he finished announcing the first part of his findings on the new Louisiana voucher program last Friday, but he might as well have. After announcing that the law that laid out the program – Senate Concurrent Resolution 99 – was properly written and passed, and that Act 2, which outlined the details of the new voucher program, didn't violate the part of the constitution that required that any one measure only deal with one policy matter at a time, it looked like the administration of Governor Bobby Jindal and other voucher supporters were about to carry the day.

That impression was promptly dashed when in part two of the finding Kelley found that the law violated the constitution when it called for the diversion of funds from the public Minimum Foundation Program to private schools in the state. Since the MFP money was the main funding source for the voucher program, unless the ruling is overturned on appeal, it seems like vouchers will not be going forward.

Jindal, who has championed the program since taking office as the Louisiana's governor, expressed disappointment with Friday's ruling.

"Today's ruling is wrong headed and a travesty for parents across Louisiana who want nothing more than for their children to have an equal opportunity at receiving a great education. That opportunity is a chance that every child deserves and we will continue the fight to give it to them.

"The opinion sadly ignores the rights of families who do not have the means necessary to escape failing schools. On behalf of the citizens that cast their votes for reform, the parents who want more choices, and the kids who deserve a chance, we will appeal today's decision, and I'm confident we will prevail. This ruling changes nothing for the students currently in the program. All along, we expected this to be decided by the Louisiana Supreme Court," the statement added.

Louisiana Superintendent John White also released a statement expressing similar sentiments.

But the gloom wasn't universal. Les Landon, who serves as the spokesperson for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, said that he felt "emotional" when the ruling was read. He called the ruling a "victory" for both taxpayers and students in the state.

Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., agreed in a statement issued Friday after the ruling.

"It is no surprise that State District Judge Tim Kelley today ruled the unnecessarily aggressive and overreaching statewide voucher program unconstitutional. A strategic use of state-funded vouchers could be appropriate, but this diversion of public education dollars was a step too far and diminishes resources for meaningful reform efforts already underway at the local level," she said.

The Louisiana Federation of Teachers initiated the lawsuit along with the Louisiana Association of Educators, Louisiana School Boards Association and more than 40 local school boards.

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