By Ashleigh Costello
Baton Rouge, La.— A Louisiana judge refused to grant an injunction Tuesday that would have prevented the immediate expansion of the state’s private school voucher program.
The decision came after state attorney Jimmy Faircloth, former executive counsel to Gov. Bobby Jindal, argued that 19th Judicial District Judge Tim Kelley lacked jurisdiction to issue an injunction blocking funding that would keep the program from launching, reports theadvertiser.com.
According to Louisiana state law, if a state official files documents asserting an injunction blocking funds would cause the state to have deficit spending, a judge is not permitted to act.
Superintendent of Education John White and Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater signed documents affirming that the Department of Education would have a $3.4 billion deficit if the injunction was granted.
“If the certifications are false, there are perjury issues,” stated Kelley. However, “I have affidavits. The law says I don’t have jurisdiction. I can’t give you an injunction.”
The decision means the program spearheaded by Gov. Jindal will commence August 1. The ruling was a win for parents, the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the Alliance for School Choice, all of whom strongly back the voucher program.
Attorneys for the Louisiana Association of Educators, Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana School Boards Association said they intend to appeal the decision.
Brian Blackwell, attorney for the LAE, argued that if the new funding plan was blocked, state law requires the previous year’s school funding formula to remain in place, and funds could be shuffled around to fill in the gaps, making it impossible for there to be a $3.4 billion deficit, reports the news site.
“That’s kind of crazy,” said Blackwell. “If you don’t spend something, how can you have a deficit?”
However, Faircloth responded that the Education Department doesn’t have the authority to move the money around without legislative action.
“I’m not pooh-poohing your argument at all,” the judge told Blackwell, LFT attorney Larry Samuel and LSBA attorney Bob Hammonds. “If this is the law, it clearly says I can’t enjoin.”
Nevertheless, Kelley did relay concern that anyone could “stick an affidavit in there saying anything you want to say and you remove my jurisdiction.”
“The damage we consider to be real,” said Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan. “There is damage to children in public schools.”
While we’re certainly not experts on Louisiana law, we know that Jindal’s expansion of the voucher program will allow thousands of students to escape failing public schools and attend quality private schools. That’s not hurting children. It’s taking business and revenue away from failing public schools, their teachers, and the teachers unions.
If they were doing their jobs correctly, there would be no great demand for more school vouchers.
As for kids left behind in public schools, their share of state aid will remain with those schools. So what is the big fuss about?