The Louisiana Supreme Court dealt a major blow to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform agenda today. In a 6-1 vote the Court ruled that funding for school vouchers, a central part of the governor’s education law, is unconstitutional because it diverts public money meant to fund public schools toward private schools.
The expansive voucher program pulls funding from what’s called the minimum foundation program, in clear violation of Louisiana state constitution. “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,” Justice John Weimer wrote, the Times-Picayune reported.
It is a serious setback for Gov. Jindal’s ambitious education agenda, much of which has ended up in the courts. The voucher program was a central part of Act 2, Jindal’s 2012 sweeping school reform package which included provisions to increase the use of private online education programs for public education; speed up charter school approval and forcefully tie teachers’ jobs’ to their students’ test scores. In March a judge ruled the teacher tenure and evaluation portions of Jindal’s law unconstitutional as well.
The Louisiana teachers union, one of the plaintiffs in this school vouchers case, has acknowledged though that this case alone will not be the final answer in the school vouchers question. In this lawsuit the Louisiana Association of Teachers challenged the funding of the school voucher program as well as lawmakers’ procedural violations. Louisiana could very well attempt to fund the program through some other, legal means.