A judge in Baton Rouge, Louisiana has ruled that the entire education reform bill supported by Governor Bobby Jindal was unconstitutional because it packed too many items into a single piece of legislation. This represents a reversal of a previous decision that some parts of the law didn't violate the state's constitution.
Parts of the law had been previously thrown out by the same judge – Republican Michael Caldwell – for the same reason. Specifically, he ruled that the parts of the measure which limited the control of local school boards was unconstitutional. However, in his previous decision, he allowed the provisions that dealt with tenure and eliminated teacher pay scales.
On Monday, Caldwell widened his previous decision, saying he had misread part of the bill for the previous ruling that allowed any part of it to stand.
The Republican judge determined that the entire bill must be declared unconstitutional because the bill bundled too many objectives that should have been spread out among multiple measures.
This is a big win for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the largest teachers union in the state, who originally filed the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law. After Caldwell handed down the original decision, the attorneys representing the LFT asked him to review it.
Steve Monaghan, president of the LFT, said that this affirms the union's belief that the bill was unconstitutional from the get-go.
The Jindal administration have already indicated that they plan to appeal.
"While the ruling does not judge the substance of the law, we're disappointed that the court reversed its original ruling. We expect to prevail in the state Supreme Court," Jindal said in a statement.
The Republican governor returned to a similar theme, accusing his opponents of trying to stall efforts to improve teacher quality and student performance.
In a statement, Jindal called his opponents "the coalition of the status quo," saying that their efforts were the chief reason why the state couldn't move forward with bold plans to improve the school system and assure better academic outcomes for the state's students.
The ruling means that many of the education reforms passed during the last legislative sessions have now been rejected by the courts, including limiting the power of the local school boards, forbidding the practice of using seniority when making layoff decisions, making getting tenure more difficult and putting in place state oversight for superintendent contracts for local boards.