By Victor Skinner
NEW ORLEANS, La. – Today is a big day for thousands of Louisiana K-12 students, yet most of them probably don’t even realize it.
Oral arguments begin today in the Louisiana Supreme Court over the constitutionality of an expanded private school voucher program approved by lawmakers last year. Roughly 5,000 Louisiana students currently use state vouchers to attend private schools throughout the state.
The education establishment – Louisiana’s teachers unions and local school boards – are suing the state to block private school choices and force families to send their children to failing public schools. They argue vouchers divert tax dollars from public schools to private institutions in violation of the Louisiana Constitution, and a district judge agreed, in part, in November, NOLA.com reports.
The state appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.
Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday he was “looking forward to a successful appeal, and we fully expect to prevail based on firmly established rules for interpreting the Constitution and the authority of the Legislature,” according to the news site.
While union lawyers haggle over the legality of school funding in an attempt to return the state to a public school monopoly, thousands of students are using the voucher program to attend schools their parents believe are a better fit than their assigned government school.
Children who would have attended low-performing or dangerous schools now have an opportunity to choose a different route and greatly improve their odds of moving on to college and succeeding in life.
For Louisiana’s voucher families the program is a symbol of hope.
Teachers unions and local school boards believe the technicalities of school funding, and the voucher program’s financial impact on public schools, is more important than providing a quality education for struggling students.
In virtually every state where lawmakers have established similar programs, teachers unions have sued to block school choice.
The Louisiana Supreme Court will have 30 days to consider the legal merits of the case and issue a ruling that will not only immediately impact thousands of Louisiana students, but could also set a precedent in an ongoing battle to give families school choices beyond government schools.
As Justices debate the case, we hope they consider more than the unions’ concerns about money and consider what their decision will mean for students and the future of their state.