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Jindal Voucher Program Struck Down By LA Supreme Court
Bobby Jindal's voucher-based education policy felt the heat of the state's judges Tuesday, as the Louisiana Supreme Court declared it a violation of the state Constitution to give public money to private and parochial schools. By a vote of 6-1, the Court opted to agree with a District Court judge who also ruled against Jindal's 2012 rewrite of Act 2, which creates a system that allows public school students to leave for private schools without losing state funding.
Under the rewrite, which was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Jindal in 2012, public money that is tied to to the student through the state's minimum foundation program can follow students who wish to go to charter, private and parochial schools. However, the Louisiana Supreme Court said the state cannot provide that much assistance to private schools. Instead, the help must be "limited to textbooks and other instructional materials," the ruling states.
Funding must be allocated equally between cities and parishes, the ruling states. But sending the money out of a district to private or parochial school undermines that equality, the ruling states.
"If a child chooses an Act 2 program, the local district will be required to spend money to educate the child," the ruling states.
The court rejected the Jindal administration's argument that money was only required to be provided for the education of the people of the state, not specifying what types of schools those would fund.
The Supreme Court took care to say that they were not ruling on the merits of the law, but only the constitutionality. However, the Court went further than the District judge, saying that the Minimum Foundation Program was not legally approved by the legislature.
The ruling comes even as the voucher program enrolled 5,000 students this year, and is looking to expand to 8,000 students for the next school year.
A separate part of the education reforms, known as Act 1, set up rules that tie teacher pay to performance, and give more power to superintendents and principals. That law was separately struck down by a separate judge in March.\
Despite the ruling, Jindal said the voucher program is "alive and well."
“We’re disappointed the funding mechanism was rejected, but we are committed to making sure this program continues and we will fund it through the budget," Jindal said in a statement. "The bottom line is that our kids only get one chance to grow up and we are committed to making sure choice is alive and families can send their children to the school of their choice."
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