Louisiana School Voucher Program Ruled Unconstitutional in State Court

Louisiana SealBobbyJindal1Submitted 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

SOURCES

Jindal voucher overhaul unconstitutionally diverts public funds to private schools, judge rules (Times-Picayune)

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)

Stateside Louisiana: School Vouchers and the Privatization of Public Education (Jonathan Turley)

86 thoughts on “Louisiana School Voucher Program Ruled Unconstitutional in State Court

  1. And then there is this problem as well. Multinationals writing our school programs which are being rubber stamped by administrators and politicians. What kind of slant do you think corporate America, through ALEC, will find advantageous to teach our kids?

  2. Stateside Louisiana: School Vouchers and the Privatization of Public Education
    https://jonathanturley.org/2012/08/13/stateside-louisiana-school-vouchers-and-the-privatization-of-public-education/

    Excerpt:
    According to Simon, 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…” (14 Wacky “Facts” Kids Will Learn in Louisiana’s Voucher Schools)

    *****

    14 Wacky “Facts” Kids Will Learn in Louisiana’s Voucher Schools
    —By Deanna Pan
    | Tue Aug. 7, 2012
    http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/07/photos-evangelical-curricula-louisiana-tax-dollars

  3. shano, I coached a young woman exchange student from Finland. I coached baseball for decades but softball for only a few years. This engaging young woman wanted to play a team sport as part of her American experience. We talked about Finland education. After she got to know me she opened up and said how much better Finland’s system and teachers were. I kept in touch w/ her for several years. She’s now an MD. I coached her during the summer and learned she had never been to a ML game. So, I organized a trip w/ the whole team to see a Brewer’s v Reds game. Tailgating is big in Milwaukee. I asked her what she wanted. Well, she wanted Wi. bratwurst but she REALLY wanted roasted corn on the cob. It was peak season for corn. The kid really wanted a beer[she was 19] but I told her I just couldn’t do it. She totally understood. She was a horrible player but a great team player. I was honored to coach her.

    We Americans can be so provincial. So many countries have much to teach us, particularly in education. But, too many Americans think we have all the answers.

  4. New Orleans Schools Reject Creationism: No Teacher ‘Shall Teach Any Aspect Of Religious Faith As Science’
    By Zack Beauchamp
    Dec 19, 2012
    http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2012/12/19/1359641/new-orleans-texas-curriculum/

    A Louisiana school district voted on Wednesday to ban from its schools any textbooks and school curricula that follows the guidelines of Texas’ extreme, ideological standards.

    Texas approved a hard-right curriculum in 2010 that taught utterly misleading assertions as fact — suggesting, for example, that Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist witch hunt had been vindicated and that the Crusades didn’t happen. But Orleans Parish (which covers New Orleans) schools were so worried about the spread of misinformation that it approved explicit rules in protest of Texas’s guidelines, requiring teachers to teach accurate historical and scientific information which wouldn’t necessarily be conveyed under Texas rules:

    “No history textbook shall be approved which has been adjusted in accordance with the State of Texas revisionist guidelines nor shall any science textbook be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories…No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a science class,” it reads. “No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes.”

    Though Texas cannot legally require the teaching of creationism, Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) has said “we teach both creation and evolution our public schools” as a consequence of his policy choices.

    Two years ago, proposed Texas textbook changes sparked outrage by rewriting history along right-wing lines and minimizing slavery. While not fully successful, the watered-down version still conveyed an entirely skewed vision of history. A recent review of the books, for example, found a consistent pattern of viciously negative portrayals of Muslims and Islam.

  5. The Court Brings The Big Hammer Down On Bobby
    By Charles P. Pierce
    5/7/13
    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/louisiana-court-finds-bobby-jindal-education-reform-unconsititutional-050713

    Excerpt:
    Something there is about “Bobby” Jindal, the soon-to-be-discarded hunk of presidential timber now serving as the governor of Louisiana, that the Supreme Court of his state doesn’t like very much. This gives the Supreme Court Of Louisiana something in common with the rest of the country, which decided long ago that it doesn’t much care what the smart money says, “Bobby” Jindal is a guy who has to be secured to the floor of his office every morning lest he float off in the general direction of the Algiers docks.

    And boom, as the kidz say, goes the dynamite.

    “The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that the current method of funding the statewide school voucher program is unconstitutional. Act 2, part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s 2012 package of education reforms, diverts money from each student’s per-pupil allocation to cover the cost of private or parochial school tuition. The act authorizes both the Louisiana Scholarship Program and the new Course Choice program. The vote was 6-1, with Justice Greg Guidry dissenting. The plaintiffs in the case include the Louisiana Association of Educators, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana School Boards Association.”

    You can’t use public money to support religious schools. Period. It is the most preposterously obvious violation of the Establishment clause of the First Amendment this side of the outright attempt by the newly insane state of North Carolina to establish Christianity as an official religion. Not only that, but the court also slaps “Bobby” around for the finagling that was necessary to get the preposterously obvious violation through the legislature in the first place.

    (And that’s not even to get into the fact that the Tennessee legislature recently killed its own bill to use public money to finance religious schools when it was discovered that this meant public money might also go to Muslim schools. Aieeeee! Mr. Madison had your number, boyos.)

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