A Baton Rouge judge has ruled Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal's private school tuition voucher program unconstitutional.
State Judge Tim Kelley ruled Friday that Jindal's program "improperly diverts money allocated through Louisiana's public school funding formula to private schools. He also said it unconstitutionally diverts local tax dollars to private schools."
Jindal signed the program into law this year to increase the availability of vouchers to fund private school tuition with public dollars. Act 2, also known as the Choice Law, would allocate millions of dollars to help children from low-income families to be privately educated, but was widely criticized for doing more damage than good. As Talking Points Memo noted in July:
The following school year, however, will see the implementation of “mini-vouchers,” in which all students at the aforementioned schools, regardless of their family’s income, will be eligible for a $1,300 stipend to pay for private-school classes and apprenticeships. The voucher system would thus open up to nearly half of the state’s public school students. Since the public schools will lose commensurate funding every time one of their students opt for a voucher, the state’s public school system could by some estimates lose up to $3.3 billion annually once the program is fully implemented.
Lack of accountability along with the massive defunding of public education in the state were just two of the major problems with Jindal's program. Many of the private schools the vouchers would send students to contained unconventional curricula, such as championing creationism above scientific facts. Mother Jones compiled a list of some of the "facts" students would learn in one of the 119 schools participating in the state's program—from claiming that "God used the Trail of Tears to bring many Indians to Christ," to globalization being a precursor to the Rapture.
The Louisiana Department of Education has argued the voucher program was created in line with the state's constitution, despite arguments from teacher unions and school boards who have been fighting the program.
There's no word yet on how this ruling could affect similar programs in other states, including Indiana, whose state private tuition voucher program headed to the state's Supreme Court last week.