By Victor Skinner
BATON ROUGE, La. – Quality education for thousands of struggling students is at stake in a lawsuit scheduled to be heard this week.
Louisiana’s teachers unions and local public school boards are challenging the constitutionality of the state’s new private school voucher program, which provides tax dollars for certain students to escape failing public schools in favor of private schools, the Associated Press reports.
District Judge Tim Kelley plans to spend three days on the case, with the first hearing Wednesday.
The plaintiffs “argue it’s illegal to pay for the voucher program, home-schooling, online courses, college tuition and independently run charter schools that won’t be affiliated with local school systems through the public funding formula,” the news service reports. “They also claim lawmakers didn’t follow the constitutional requirements for filing and passing the education programs and their funding.”
Gov. Bobby Jindal and state superintendent John White believe, as we do, that the voucher program is perfectly legal, and has great potential to improve academics for students who have been left behind in the public school system. The program is specifically designed to provide private school vouchers to students who have attended public schools graded a C, D or F by the state, the AP reports.
“Taxpaying parents made the decision that this is what is best for their child and their tax dollars,” White told the AP. “We’re now in the middle of the school year, and even then, some people continue to stop at nothing to prevent parents from doing what’s best for their children.”
That’s because those who oppose the voucher program depend on the public school system for their livelihoods. Local school boards want to prevent vouchers from siphoning away students and the state tax dollars attached to them. Teachers unions fear competition from private schools will reduce demand for public school teachers, and ultimately bite into their dues revenue.
Teachers unions have filed suit to challenge a similar voucher program in Indiana. That case is currently in court.
In both states parents are making it clear they want better educational options for their children.
“More than 4,900 students are enrolled in 117 private schools around Louisiana with taxpayer dollars, one of the largest voucher programs in the nation,” the AP reports.
But those figures are unlikely to sway union officials, who have undoubtedly employed a stable of high-priced attorneys to convince the court to maintain the public school monopoly, regardless of what it could mean for the thousands of Louisiana students who would be stuck in failing government schools.