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Voucher programs challenged in other states

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Posted: Jun 8, 2012 10:30 PM by Ashley Rodrigue
Source: WBRZ

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Topics: voucher, program, state, Jindal, governor

BATON ROUGE- More teachers consider taking the governor to court over his education reform.

The Louisiana Association of Educators could be next to sue over private-school vouchers. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers sued Thursday following teacher groups in other states where vouchers were challenged.

For students, it quite possibly means nothing will change. That's because in some of the other states that have tried a voucher program, the plan has been tossed out.

LFT Legislative-Political Director Mary-Patricia Wray said, "Our constitution mandates our state will educate every single child to the best of its ability."

BESE President Penny Dastugue said, "Approached this in a very thoughtful manner and we believe that the acts that were passed and we're in the process of implementing are constitutional."

Battles over state constitutions based on the idea of using public money in religious facilities has stopped the program in at least two states and forced changes to the program in at least three. But the U.S. Supreme Court says voucher programs do not violate the concept of separation of church and state and that's saved face in at least four states. Something LSU Law Professor Paul Baier says both sides need to consider.

He said, "Right now, these claims that what Louisiana has done has violated the establishment clause, established law would fail, so this is why the parties are attacking the legislation from different angles."

The angle teachers are going for? Simple wording and the state says its ready for the argument.

"We have a situation where we fund our public schools through a program through the minimum foundations program and it's our contention that that program, as its language indicates, is set aside specifically to educate in public institutions of secondary and elementary institutions," said Wray.

Dastugue said, "The assertions have been made throughout the session so we think we're well prepared and in a very strong position."

More lawsuits against Governor Jindal's plan are expected, including from school boards like in Ascension Parish. That board voted on an intention to sue over the program this week.

A hearing on the first lawsuit filed could be heard within the month.

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