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Louisiana voucher program ruled unconstitutional

December 1, 2012

From the WSJ:

“Nowhere was it mandated that funds from [the block-grant program]…be provided for an alternative education beyond what the Louisiana education system was set up for,” he wrote. The state can legally fund vouchers, but the funding “must come from some other portion of the general budget,” Judge Kelley said.

The state’s two teachers unions and dozens of local school boards sued the state in district court this year hoping to block the program, which allows low-income students in poorly performing schools to use publicly funded vouchers for private-school tuition.

The state will appeal.

Now about those voucher schools: A post at Delaware Liberal (by Pandora of course) lays out some of the facts about Lousiana voucher schools:

Those voucher supporters who are dreaming of Tower Hill and Archmere… it’s time to wake up and take a look at the sort of schools that will accept your child.

and, quoting a Reuters article on Louisiana:

That list includes some of the most prestigious schools in the state, which offer a rich menu of advanced placement courses, college-style seminars and lush grounds. The top schools, however, have just a handful of slots open. The Dunham School in Baton Rouge, for instance, has said it will accept just four voucher students, all kindergartners. As elsewhere, they will be picked in a lottery. […]

Far more openings are available at smaller, less prestigious religious schools, including some that are just a few years old and others that have struggled to attract tuition-paying students.

The school willing to accept the most voucher students — 314 — is New Living Word in Ruston, which has a top-ranked basketball team but no library. Students spend most of the day watching TVs in bare-bones classrooms. Each lesson consists of an instructional DVD that intersperses Biblical verses with subjects such chemistry or composition.

And then there is this:

WATSON — Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Watson, says she had no idea that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s overhaul of the state’s educational system might mean taxpayer support of Muslim schools …

‘I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school,’ Hodges said.

Hodges mistakenly assumed that ‘religious’ meant ‘Christian.’

HB976, now signed into law as Act 2, proposed, among other things, a voucher program allowing state educational funds to be used to send students to schools run by religious groups …

‘Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,’ Hodges said. ‘We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.'”

Not to mention the Louisiana Superintendant caught trying to spin the state’s lack of vetting for voucher schools:

In the email exchange, [Superintendant] White proposes creating a news story about the “due diligence” process for school voucher approvals to counter the impact of a News-Star article that revealed the state Department of Education had not performed site visits or extensive review of voucher applications.

  1. Citizen
    December 2, 2012 at 9:44 am

    Mike, this ruling against vouchers (by a southern Republican judge) reminds me of something Kilroy noted a few weeks ago, about the use of DE property taxes. DE state constitution (art. X sec 6) reads:
    “6. Property tax; use limitations.
    Section 6. No property tax receipts received by a public school district as a result of a property tax levied for a particular purpose shall be used for any other purpose except upon the favorable vote of a majority of the eligible voters in the district voting on the question.”

    This leads me to question the constitutionality of funding out-of-district charters (or magnets & votechs) with funds raised by district residents to support their district schools. The LA ruling is somewhat similar–according to the WSJ, “The voucher program was funded by a block-grant program which Judge Kelley ruled is restricted by the constitution to funding only public schools.” I wonder if a similar case could be brought in DE. That would result in either the need to raise a separate tax pool to fund non-district public schools, or in the district-based administration of all public schools. Either sounds like an improvement to me over the misdirection of public funds to support highly unregulated charter schools that we have now.

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