As Louisiana's voucher program is getting a hearing from the full 7-judge panel of the Louisiana Supreme Court, advocates both for and against it are making their case to the public. Until the judges make the decision, after a hearing that was held Tuesday, the program – and Baton Rouge families qualifying for vouchers – remain in limbo.
Nearly 5,000 children in Baton Rouge qualify for the voucher program, which is a state-sponsored scholarship which allows families to use the money towards tuition at a school of their choice. The program remains on hold after the ruling by a Baton Rouge judge that the program was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on the appeal filed by the state.
Meanwhile, those who turned out to march in support of school choice – parents among them – are wondering why it's unconstitutional for tax payers to have a say as to where their tax money is going.
"If you take my take my tax dollars and give it to the public schools, how come is it now you deem it illegal and unconstitutional to apply it to where I have the right to say where it goes?" parent Anthony White said.
"As a parent, if my child is attending a public school that is failing, and it's evident and it's shown numbers-wise, LEAP-score wise, as a parent I should have the right to remove my child from that environment," parent Essence Jackson said.
Joyce Haynes, head of the Louisiana Association of Educators – the teachers union that filed the lawsuit challenging the program – offers up a familiar criticism of the voucher program. In her view, the program strips resources from already pinched public schools, degrading the quality of education for everyone.
Haynes says that tax money should go to the district, not follow the student. She further challenges the assertion that so many public schools in the state are failing, noting that the "bar is always moving" when it comes to public school assessment.
She expressed hope that the Supreme Court upholds the ruling of the lower court and that the state should concentrate on improving all public schools so they can provide excellent education to all students rather than trying to take apart the public education system piece by piece.
Opponents of the voucher program feel that money should automatically go to designated school districts, while supporters of the voucher program feel it should follow the child.
"This case is about whether 198,000 students in D- and F-ranked schools are going to be able to access quality education through private options, or whether they're going to be forced to stay in schools that are under performing and failing," Justice Institute attorney Bill Maurer said.