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Funding for La. Voucher Program is Declared Unconstitutional

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The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that the current method of funding the state's far-reaching voucher program is unconstitutional, in a blow to one of the most sweeping private school choice efforts in the country.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia operate voucher programs, and while the court's ruling is specific to Louisiana, the defeat of the program's funding mechanism has drawn national attention.

Championed by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, the voucher program would have diverted part of each student's per-pupil funding to private school tuition. That funding model violates the state's constitution, according to Louisiana's highest court, which said that the per-pupil money flow must go toward public schools only.

The 6-1 ruling upholds a decision by a lower court in November that also found the funding of the voucher program to be unconstitutional.

The resolution passed to create the funding mechanism, Senate Concurrent Resolution 99, was also declared unconstitutional by the court, the majority of whose members found that it failed to gather the amount of votes needed for approval. The court also ruled that the measure was introduced too late—on the 85th day of the legislative session—and that all laws must be introduced by the 82nd day of the session.

The court's decision does not necessarily put an end to the voucher program, but voucher proponents will have to come up with a new funding method to move it forward. So far, Gov. Jindal has not specified where the funding might come from.

State Superintendent John White said in response to the May 7 ruling that "we will find funding and keep fighting this," according to a press release from the Center for Education Reform, a school choice advocacy group that called the ruling a "clear violation of the civil rights of parents and children."

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice called the decision "an injustice to ... Louisiana children."

Meanwhile, organizations such as the National School Boards Association and the American Federation of Teachers applauded the move.

Vol. 32, Issue 31, Page 5

Published in Print: May 15, 2013, as Funding for La. Voucher Program Is Declared Unconstitutional
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