By Danielle Dreilinger, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on May 07, 2013 at 10:29 AM, updated May 07, 2013 at 12:34 PM
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.
The ruling states that the per-pupil allocation, called the minimum foundation program or MFP, must go to public schools. Justice John Weimer writes, “The state funds approved through the unique MFP process cannot be diverted to nonpublic schools or other nonpublic course providers according to the clear, specific and unambiguous language of the constitution.”
Furthermore, the court found that the instrument Jindal used to pass the MFP for the 2012-13 school year violated proper procedure and was therefore void from the start.
Instead of passing a law, the Legislature appropriated the MFP funds by passing a resolution, SCR 99. However, that resolution “was intended to have the effect of law,” according to the court, and it was filed after the deadline for introducing new bills, rendering it invalid. This part of the Supreme Court decision overturns the judgment made in Baton Rouge district court in November.
The decision notes that it is not the court’s place to weigh in on the educational merits of the programs.
To date, Jindal and state Superintendent John White have declined to specify an alternative means of funding vouchers or Course Choice. The New Orleans voucher program was paid for through the state general fund.
In the dissent, Guidry wrote that he saw no constitutional reason the state could not use a student’s per-pupil allocation “to fund scholarships” because a student’s per-pupil allocation reverts to the state when he or she leaves the system.
- Breaking News: Louisiana Court Rules Funding Vouchers Unconstitutional (dianeravitch.net)