La. Supreme Court rules voucher funding unconstitutional
BATON ROUGE - The state's highest court ruled today that the funding formula for Gov. Bobby Jindal's key education reform, school vouchers, violates the state's constitution.
Today's ruling was 6-1, with Justice Greg Guidry dissenting. It affects Act 2, which diverts per-student funding to private and parochial schools to cover the vouchers. It also affects SCR 99, a resolution passed to approve the funding formula for the 2012-2013 year and which the Supreme Court said acted as a law without being passed as one.
The majority ruled that once funds are dedicated to the state's Minimum Foundation Program for public education, or MFP, the constitution prohibits those funds from being spent on tuition costs for nonpublic schools and entities.
In his dissenting opinion Justice Guidry said he didn't see any constitutional reason why the state couldn't use MFP funds to pay for scholarships which went to public school students, even if those scholarships were paid to private schools. He said once a student leaves a school district the money reverts back to the state, and the public school district is no longer entitled to it.
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers sued to have the voucher program removed. LFT President Steve Monaghan said he hopes the ruling will make the Jindal administration be more "inclusive" in future education discussions.
"It basically affirms that we were right, and there's no particular joy in the sense that we've spent a lot of time going through the experience to validate that position," he said. "But it is a much better place to be in, when your position is validated, than if the court had ruled otherwise."
Jimmy Faircloth, the attorney who represented the state, said he was reviewing the decision and didn't know they would appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court.
The Jindal administration and state education leaders haven't discussed any alternate ways to fund the scholarship program.
"We're disappointed the funding mechanism was rejected, but we are committed to making sure this program continues and we will fund it through the budget," Jindal said in an emailed press release today.
News 2 will have more on this developing story and how it affects children and schools already accepted into the program for next year tonight.
Read the court's full decision by clicking here.