Louisiana judge rules against Jindal’s voucher program, a.k.a. better opportunities for children

posted at 3:31 pm on December 3, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

Since his election, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has championed the cause of education reform by permitting more private-sector competition into the school system — the ire of the teachers’ unions be darned. One of his signature achievements, a private-school tuition voucher program that allows low-income children (those from families with a household income less than 250% of the federal poverty line) stuck in underperforming public schools (those graded a “C” or worse by the state) to instead attend a private school of their choice, was ruled unconstitutional by a state judge on Friday.

Judge Tim Kelley sided with arguments presented by teacher unions and school boards seeking to shut down the voucher program and other changes that would funnel more money away from traditional public schools.

More than 4,900 students are enrolled in 117 private schools with taxpayer dollars, in one of the largest voucher programs in the nation.

The judge said the method the Jindal administration, state education leaders and lawmakers used to pay for the voucher program violates state constitutional provisions governing the annual education funding formula, called the Minimum Foundation Program or MFP.

In other words, why no, the teachers’ unions and big-government progressives wouldn’t like it if they were actually forced to compete and compare results with private institutions. Gov. Jindal was not pleased by the ruling, pledging to appeal the decision:

“Today’s ruling is 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.   That opportunity is a chance that every child deserves and we will continue the fight to give it to them. The opinion sadly ignores the rights of families who do not have the means necessary to escape failing schools. On behalf of the citizens that cast their votes for reform, the parents who want more choices, and the kids who deserve a chance, we will appeal today’s decision, and I’m confident we will prevail. This ruling changes nothing for the students currently in the program. All along, we expected this to be decided by the Louisiana Supreme Court.”

Good thing too, because if the ruling stands, eventually that many of the 5000-odd kids who have so far made use of the new program may have to be yanked out of their new schools and placed back into the failing public schools from whence they came. The WSJ gets it right:

Louisiana Judge Timothy Kelley sure is a fast writer. Only hours after the end of a two-day trial, the Balzac of the judiciary rolled out a 39-page opinion striking down the state’s pioneering voucher program as unconstitutional. Could it be that he knew how he was going to rule before the trial?In other words, better that all students fail together, rather than let parents take the money that is supposed to go to public education and try to get their child actually educated. This is the kind of perverse egalitarianism promoted by the teachers unions that brought the lawsuit. No student can ever escape their clutches, lest parents discover that maybe there’s a better way.

… Where are the liberals who claim to favor equal opportunity?


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