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Judge Rules Against Funding Mechanism for Louisiana Voucher Program

Posted on Friday November 30, 2012 |

Ruling reaffirms legality of publicly-funded scholarships, but halts current funding structure; Case will be appealed to State Supreme Court

BATON ROUGE, LA (November 30, 2012)—The American Federation for Children—the nation’s voice for educational choice—today expressed disappointment with a district court judge’s ruling that halts the funding mechanism for Louisiana’s statewide school voucher program.

The ruling from Judge Tim Kelley of the 19th Judicial District said that while Louisiana’s constitution does allow for publicly-funded scholarships so children can attend private schools, the funding mechanism used to pay for scholarships is unconstitutional. Kelley’s ruling says that funding for the voucher program—which was expanded statewide in the spring by a bipartisan legislative vote—must not be funded by the state’s Minimum Foundation Program. 
 
The State of Louisiana and the Institute for Justice announced they will appeal the ruling to the State Supreme Court.
 
Parents of students enrolled in the scholarship program today expressed their disappointment with the ruling.
 
“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Tirany Howard, whose three children are receiving scholarships through the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence program.  “For once, I felt like as a society we’re moving forward, putting kids first, but it’s still about money.”
 
Kevin P. Chavous, senior advisor to the Federation, said that while today’s ruling is a setback in the effort to give all children access to a high-quality education, it is just the beginning. 
 
“It is unfortunate that defenders of the status quo have opted to pursue this litigation that has but one goal, which is to deny Louisiana children from low-income families access to a quality education,“ Chavous said.  “While children and families were not successful in the 19th Judicial District Court, we will appeal this decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court and continue the fight to make sure every child in Louisiana can get the quality education they deserve.”
 
Judge Kelley’s ruling rejected claims from teachers’ union lawyers that the expanded scholarship program itself violated the state constitution.
 
It also comes just a few months after nearly 10,400 students applied for scholarships to participate in the program. Almost 5,000 students across Louisiana are enrolled, and education advocates say that they’re committed to making sure that the futures of those students are not jeopardized as a result of today’s ruling.
 
“We will do everything possible to make sure the children who are benefitting from this important scholarship program – and the thousands of children who are seeking to enter the program—will continue to have this option,” Chavous said. “They’ve made far too much progress to go back.”