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May 07, 2013 3:09 PM Jindal’s Voucher Scheme Goes Down

By Ed Kilgore

I mentioned this briefly in the Lunch Buffet, but wanted to discuss it some more since it’s a big development in educational policy and politics: Bobby Jindal’s big and dangerous private school voucher program was declared unconstitutional by the Louisiana Supreme Court this morning on grounds that the state’s constitution prohibits diversion of public school funds. Danielle Drielinger of the New Orleans Times-Picayune has the details:

The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that the current method of funding the statewide school voucher program is unconstitutional. Act 2, part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s 2012 package of education reforms, diverts money from each student’s per-pupil allocation to cover the cost of private or parochial school tuition. The act authorizes both the Louisiana Scholarship Program and the new Course Choice program.
The vote was 6-1, with Justice Greg Guidry dissenting. The plaintiffs in the case include the Louisiana Association of Educators, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana School Boards Association.
The ruling states that the per-pupil allocation, called the minimum foundation program or MFP, must go to public schools. Justice John Weimer writes, “The state funds approved through the unique MFP process cannot be diverted to nonpublic schools or other nonpublic course providers according to the clear, specific and unambiguous language of the constitution.”

Jindal immediately said he’d seek to fund the voucher program through general appropriations, but recent polling showing that vouchers (unlike charter public schools) are not terribly popular makes that a questionable proposition, even with a Republican-controlled legislature.

From a national perspective, the court ruling was a significant blow to the trend (at least in Republican-governed states) towards “backpack” vouchers—public educational funds that are “strapped to the kids’ backs” and follow wherever parents to decide to send them, with minimal or no accountability for results. It could also raise the visibility of the fault lines among Republicans on education policy, particularly in terms of the recent tendency of conservatives to abandon the standards-and-accountability movement (reflected in the Common Core Standards that are about to be implemented in most states) in favor of out-front hostility to “government schools.”

Needless to say, the Louisiana court’s action continued what has become a very bad year for Bobby Jindal, whose supposedly cerebral agenda for his state is in tatters.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • c u n d gulag on May 07, 2013 3:24 PM:

    Well, it was a stupid idea in the first place, so, of course, the stupid party had to jump on it, since they want to privatize every damn thing in this country.

    But, only a really stupid politician in that stupid party, would have put so many eggs in the 'stupid basket.'

    So, Boobie J, what were you saying about not being "The Stupid Party?"

    Oh, but I'm sure they'll figure out some new schemes - that's if they're not already out there.

    There's still some money left in the public's pockets, which means that Conservatives will double-down their attempts to get that money into private pockets.

  • ed on May 07, 2013 3:34 PM:

    So the lone wingnut's name is 'Guidry'. Wonder if he is any relation to Ron Guidry, the Yankee's 'Louisiana Lightning' back in the 70's.

  • c u n d gulag on May 07, 2013 3:46 PM:

    ed,
    I suspect that Guidry is as common in LA, as Washington is in DC, or Chin is in China.

    I once heard someone ask the great Guidry in an interview once, if he was related to some other guy with the same name, and he said something like, "Well, it's possible. But, pretty much if you throw a baseball in any direction in LA, it would probably hit someone named Guidry."

  • labman57 on May 07, 2013 6:53 PM:

    Many Republicans would love to see the public education system be financially gutted and instead have the private education system be government-subsidized.   One reason:  they regard any form of public education (k-12 or college) as part of a subversive left-wing plot to corrupt and brainwash our youth.

    Unlike the public school system, private schools would not be restricted from propagating right wing revisionist history in their social studies classes, nor proselytizing religious ideology and promoting corporate-funded anti-environmental propaganda in the science classroom.

    Vouchers are intended to allow students from (once again) highly motivated families attend costly private schools which they would otherwise not be able to attend. The funding for the vouchers comes from the state or federal government, i.e., the government is essentially subsidizing the private school industry.  Since private schools can select student admittance based on the family's financial status and academic ability, this would create a further divide between the "haves" and "have nots" in our society.

    Since vouchers only account for a portion of the cost of tuition at a private school, families in the lower third of the economic range would still be excluded from attending, resulting in the public school system being further saturated with the poorest students, the lowest achieving students (including ELD and learning disabled), and those that are least motivated to attain academic success.

    Furthermore, comparing performance data between public and private schools is not scientifically valid -- the latter can select students for admission based on entrance qualifications, and they can remove students from their programs based on poor conduct or academic performance. Therefore, the performance data becomes extremely skewed compared with public schools which legally must accept anyone who resides within its residency boundaries.

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