Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger
In August, I wrote a post about Louisiana’s new school voucher program (Stateside Louisiana: School Vouchers and the Privatization of Public Education) that would use tax dollars earmarked for public education to pay for students’ tuitions to private and religious schools. Last week, State District Judge Tim Kelley “declared the diversion of funds from the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) — the formula under which per pupil public education funds are calculated – to private entities was unconstitutional.” The voucher program is funded by a block-grant program that “Judge Kelley ruled is restricted by the constitution to funding only public schools.”
“Nowhere was it mandated that funds from [the block-grant program]…be provided for an alternative education beyond what the Louisiana education system was set up for,” he [Judge Kelley] wrote. The state can legally fund vouchers, but the funding “must come from some other portion of the general budget,” Judge Kelley said.
The judge, however, did not issue an immediate injunction to stop the voucher program. “The 5,000 students currently receiving vouchers will be able to continue attending their private schools pending an appeal, state officials said.”
Governor Bobby Jindal, a champion of the voucher program, called the ruling “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.” He promised to appeal the judge’s ruling. John White, the state superintendent of education, said, “We are optimistic this decision will be reversed.”
According to reports, Judge Kelley’s ruling is not the only challenge Louisiana’s new school voucher program faces. Last week, a federal judge in New Orleans “ruled that the program had the potential to disrupt the region’s court-ordered efforts to desegregate public schools. The federal judge issued a temporary injunction halting the use of vouchers in Tangipahoa Parish over concern that the program was siphoning off state dollars needed to implement the desegregation plan.” There are at least thirty more school districts in the state that are also under desegregation orders. Voucher opponents said they plan to “bring similar federal court cases in those districts.”
The Times-Picayune reported that the voucher “suit was brought by Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT), Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE), Louisiana School Boards Association and 43 local school boards.” In addition to the teachers’ unions and school boards, others have also criticized the program because some of the private and religious schools that receive voucher money “focus on so-called Young Earth Creationism over evolution.”
(Note: The Unites States Supreme Court has “affirmed the right of religious institutions to receive taxpayer funds through vouchers, as long as the state itself isn’t advocating a particular faith.”)
Another criticism of the program is that voucher students who attend many of the private and religious schools will not be subjected to the same standardized testing that students in Louisiana’s public schools are.
From my earlier post on the Louisiana school voucher program:
Casey Michel (TPMMuckraker) reported in July that students in every public school in Louisiana are subjected to standardized testing, but “voucher students — who will bring an average of $8,000 in tuition from ‘failing’ public schools to many that are affiliated with religious denominations — will only need to face testing if their new school has taken an average of 10 students per grade, or if the schools have accepted at least 40 voucher students into the grades testing.”
According to Simon[Stephanie Simon, Reuters], there are private schools in Louisiana that have been approved to receive state funds that “use social studies texts warning that liberals threaten global prosperity; Bible-based math books that don’t cover modern concepts such as set theory; and biology texts built around refuting evolution.” Many of the schools “rely on Pensacola-based A Beka Book curriculum or Bob Jones University Press textbooks to teach their pupils Bible-based ‘facts,’ such as the existence of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster and all sorts of pseudoscience…”
Note: The Louisiana school voucher program not only siphons money away from the state’s public schools to private and religious schools—but also to private businesses and private tutors.
Creationist Textbooks: Darwin Is Wrong Because Loch Ness Monster Is Real
Louisiana Voucher Program Funds Horrible Private Religious Schools With Tax Payer Money
Louisiana Voucher Program Ruled Unconstitutional (Huffington Post)
Blow Dealt to School Voucher Program (Wall Street Journal)
Bobby Jindal’s school voucher program ruled unconstitutional (Washington Post)
Judge blocks Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature school voucher program (Christian Science Monitor)