Voucher Program Ruled Unconstitutional by Louisiana Supreme Court

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In 2012, Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal, instituted a school voucher program.  On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of the State of Louisiana declared the plan unconstitutional.  The vouchers were created by deducting a portion of each student’s per-pupil allocation, to assist in private and parochial education.  The programs authorized by the funds were the Louisiana Scholarship Program and the new Course Choice program.

The vote was 6-1.  The plaintiffs in the case include the Louisiana Association of Educators, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana School Boards Association.

The Court ruled that by law the per-pupil allocations, specifically the minimum foundation program, must go to the public school system.  “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.”

In 2012, instead of passing a law, the legislature passed resolution SCR 99, appropriating the MFP funds.  The court decided that the instrument Jindal used to pass the MFP for the 2012-13 school year violated proper procedure and was therefore void from the start.

Republicans, such as Governor Jindal, have proposed a voucher system for some time.  There are unending questions about the legal and educational ramifications.  One of the biggest issues centers around a single question.  Should the majority of tax payers, whose children go to public schools, be forced to pay for the approximately 9% who chose to go to private schools?  The reverse is asked by the taxpayers of the 9%.  A portion of their taxes, often related to property, funds the public school system that is not attended by their children.

The obstacle that raises the biggest question is how to fund a voucher program.  Louisiana now knows that their attempt has failed, and a new solution must be found.

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey is facing a similar problem.  If he manages to get an uncertain legislature to pass his pilot program of school vouchers, his next challenge may be in a court of law.

Christie has put a 2 million dollar pilot program into his budget.  The Education Law Center, which represents poor school kids, has warned leading lawmakers that creating vouchers through the budget would usurp their role as policymakers, and violate the state constitution.

Unlike the federal government, which continuously attaches ‘earmarks’ to legislation, New Jersey’s law requires a distinct measure for each bill submitted.

Detractors say that Christie is attempting to implement a program which he is unable to get through the legislature.  They submit that “the budget is used to fund existing programs, not create them.”

The ACLU said it would also challenge the measure.  The plan would funnel public funds into Religious institutions.

Eleven states presently have some form of a voucher program.  New Jersey’s would be the first to enact one without involvement of the legislature.

The bottom line is that here in Nevada, as with many other states, education is under-funded.  The Nevada legislature is in session this year and has added two proposals to increase the budget for education, in an effort to raise the state’s national ranking which is presently near the bottom.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

 

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