The Louisiana Association of Educators, one of the largest teachers unions in the state, has threatened court action against schools participating in the state's voucher program, reports The Pelican Post. These proposed lawsuits are in addition to the one filed by the LAE challenging the constitutionality of the program in its entirety. This lawsuit is currently pending at the 19th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge. Recently, the court denied a request for an injunction filed by the LAE in an effort to have the program's rollout delayed or halted.
This week the attorney representing the LAE, Brian F. Blackwell, sent letters to all schools who have requested to participate in the new voucher program informing them that by accepting voucher students, they are participating in an unconstitutional payment of public funds. Therefore, the letter insists, the schools should immediately notify the Louisiana Department of Education that they will not allow voucher students to enroll until the LAE challenge makes its way through the court system — or they'll face legal action by the union. The deadline for the schools to make the notification to the state DoE is July 27th, at 4:00PM.
Clint Bolick, Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute in Arizona, has argued and won landmark cases in state and federal court on behalf of school choice programs around the nation. "In over two decades of school choice advocacy, I've never seen thuggery of this magnitude. What the unions can't accomplish in the courtroom, they're trying to achieve through bullying schools whose only offense is offering educational opportunities to children who need them."
The Pelican Post calls the threat to sue individual schools unprecedented, writing that while legal tussles between LAE and the state, or even individual school districts, aren't uncommon, this is the first time the union took the fight directly to the schools themselves. Robert Enlow, the president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for School Choice, called the union's action a brazen attempt to prevent parents from having a voice in choosing an academic environment that works best for their children.
"The teachers union and their allies have sunk to a new low in their attempt to put the interests of the system ahead of the interests of parents. I hope the public will see this action for what it is: a blatant strong-arm tactic to threaten parents and non-public schools."
The state voucher program, which first began operating in New Orleans in 2008 as an effort to overhaul the failing school system in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, was recently expanded to all districts in Louisiana after Governor Bobby Jindal signed the legislation approving the expansion. The vouchers allow families to use government funding towards tuition at private schools of their choice. Reuters called the state's voucher program the largest experiment in privatization of public education in the United States.
Staring this fall, when a large proportion of the state's low- and middle-income families become eligible to receive school vouchers, a big chunk of state education funding will shift from the public school systems to parochial, charter and other privately-owner education providers. The funding shift is only expected to grow the following year, when all students, regardless of material circumstances, will be allowed to receive the so-called mini-vouchers which can be used for any classes or programs not offered in their local public schools.