The legal fight is so very far from over, but on Friday, the first act for Act 2’s courtroom drama ended with a crushing defeat for private school choice and voucher proponents. A Louisiana judge declared Act 2 unconstitutional after a brisk three-day trial. The law was Gov. Bobby Jindal’s crowning 2012 education reform achievement. Among other reforms, it instituted the largest statewide voucher program in the nation to give private schools and entities money designated for public schools in exchange for educating students from low-income families.
Gov. Jindal, whose reform playbook is borrowed from ALEC and other conservative forces who have aggressively introduced market forces into the public school sphere with the ostensible goal of improving public education, vowed an appeal. “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,” the governor said in a statement on Friday, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.
“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,” Jindal said. “All along, we expected this to be decided by the Louisiana Supreme Court.”
In the meantime, the Louisana Federation of Teachers and other plaintiffs who brought the suit are celebrating their momentary victory. “This is a win for all of the children of Louisiana — and for the taxpayers,” Les Landon, the public relations director for the LFT told the Times-Picayune on Friday.
Act 2 sets aside tens of millions of dollars for the creation of the largest statewide school voucher program. More than half of Louisiana’s public school students, 380,000, were expected to qualify for the first round of the program. Despite calls of concern from teachers unions and progressives who say that school vouchers are the wrong tact to improve public education, they remain a popular, if controversial measure for parents whose children are eligible. Many parents are agnostic about who is delivering their children’s education, and ahead of a voucher application deadline this summer, Louisiana parents showed serious interest in the program. Already, Louisiana taxpayers are paying for some 4,900 public students who are enrolled in 117 private schools.