Friday was a sad day for Louisiana students. In response to a suit brought by education unions, a district court ruled that the Louisiana school choice program’s funding mechanism is unconstitutional.
The program allows low-income children from underperforming Louisiana public schools to attend private schools of their choice. Sadly, now the educational future of those students hangs in the balance.
School choice advocates “are expected to appeal the court’s ruling directly to the Louisiana Supreme Court,” noted the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. As a result, the ruling is suspended “so that children are not adversely affected during the appeal process.”
The Wall Street Journal noted, prior to the court’s decisions, that the lawsuit “is the latest study in how far the education bureaucracy will go to protect its money and power and resist the competition that comes from school choice, even when it means forcing kids to return to schools that steal their futures.”
The Louisiana Scholarship program, which is in its inaugural year, was signed by Governor Bobby Jindal this past spring. Already 5,000 students are taking part in the program, which has opened the door of academic opportunity for students to leave underperforming public schools—those rated C, D, or F.
“The tragedy is how many students qualify for the program,” noted the WSJ. “According to the state, 953 of the state’s 1,373 public schools (K–12) were ranked C, D or F.” Despite being consigned to underachieving schools, the unions have gone to extraordinary lengths to deprive children of a lifeline to a better future. They went so far as to send letters to private schools participating in the school choice program, threatening legal action if they accepted voucher students.
The unions brought their suit claiming that the program is unconstitutional because it takes money away from public schools.
In reality, asserts WSJ, the union’s complaints against the program aren’t about the “squeeze” to public education but about the threat to the power of education unions, whose “interests have long since taken primacy over providing kids with a decent education. The Louisiana unions know that putting their dismal classrooms into competition with private schools could eventually have students and parents trampling each other in a rush to the exits.”
The Louisiana case is yet another “par for the course” attempt by unions and special interests to stifle meaningful education reform. As the school choice movement has gained momentum over the last few years—achieving historic levels of educational opportunity for students—the unions have fought tooth and nail to block school choice legislation. Once these bills have passed, unions have time and again attempted to bring suit against the programs.
“I don’t know how you defend the status quo,” Governor Jindal said. “I don’t know how you look a child or parent in the eye and say wait. They only have one chance to grow up. We have spent decades and billions of dollars doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
Choice works. Competition works. Accountability works. There’s no reason we can’t do this, not only across our state but across the country.