La. private school voucher program ruled unconstitutional - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; |

UPDATE: voucher program ruled unconstitutional, quick reactions from both sides

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Gov. Bobby Jindal's private school tuition voucher program has been ruled unconstitutional by a Baton Rouge judge.

State Judge Tim Kelley says that the 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.

Governor Jindal reacted to today's ruling by saying, "Today's ruling is wrong headed and a travesty for parents across Louisiana who want nothing more than for their children to have an equal opportunity at receiving a great education.   That opportunity is a chance that every child deserves and we will continue the fight to give it to them. The opinion sadly ignores the rights of families who do not have the means necessary to escape failing schools. On behalf of the citizens that cast their votes for reform, the parents who want more choices, and the kids who deserve a chance, we will appeal today's decision, and I'm confident we will prevail. This ruling changes nothing for the students currently in the program. All along, we expected this to be decided by the Louisiana Supreme Court."

Reaction from the state's Democratic Party was also swift, with Party Chair Karen Carter Peterson saying, "The Louisiana Democratic Party calls for an immediate halt to Governor Jindal's unconstitutional voucher program in the face of this ruling, and a return of all funding and students to local public school districts. We urge the Governor not to appeal this decision and to refrain from inflicting further needless harm on the public school system by pursuing this unconstitutional program."

Kelley ruled in the lawsuit backed by teacher unions and school boards seeking to shut down the voucher program and other changes that would funnel more money away from traditional public schools.

The state education department and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education said the programs were funded and created in line with the constitution.

It's not yet clear how the ruling will affect more than 4,900 students now enrolled in 117 private schools with taxpayer dollars. However, since Judge Kelley didn't issue an injunction in the case, it's unlikely there will be any immediate effect on those already in the program.

Earlier, in reaction to the ruling, La. Superintendent of Education John White had said, "We strongly disagree with the ruling.  We are optimistic this decision will be reversed on appeal."
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