May 7, 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court declared that state’s voucher
program unconstitutional under the state constitution. The plaintiffs, in Louisiana
Federation of Teachers, et al. v. State, challenged
a senate resolution and Act 2, both passed during the 2012 legislative session.
Louisiana calls their vouchers the “Student Scholarships for Educational
Excellence Program,” a misnomer commonly referred to as “the voucher
program.” The new legislation required transfer of funds that would have
gone to K-12 public schools, instead, to cyber (“online” or “virtual”)
schools, parents who choose home schooling, “postsecondary institutions” (not
colleges and universities), and private and parochial schools, and to corporations
offering vocational or technical courses.
The court explained that “This court is constitutionally obligated to
address these issues, for it is the role of the judiciary to determine the
meaning and effect of the constitution. … The court’s role is to
evaluate the…constitution to determine whether the matters addressed
by the legislature comply with the relevant constitutional provisions….”
The Louisiana Constitution, in Article VIII, Section 13(B), requires the state
to annually develop and adopt a formula to determine the cost of a minimum
foundation program of education in all public K-12 schools, as well as to equitably
allocate the funds to parish and city school systems.
After examining the record, the legislation, and the constitutional provisions,
the state’s supreme court found that, for funds dedicated to public education,
the state constitution prohibits expending those funds on nonpublic schools
and nonpublic entities. And, that’s exactly what the senate resolution
and Act 2 did.
Writing for the court, Justice John Weimer stated in part, “The state
funds approved through the unique Minimum Foundation Program process cannot
be diverted to nonpublic schools or other nonpublic course providers according
to the clear, specific and unambiguous language of the constitution.” (emphasis
As reported by a pro-voucher organization, the Louisiana State Superintendent,
John White, who is also pro-voucher, commented that while he had not yet read
the opinion (He was on Capitol Hill testifying before the House Committee on
Education.), he understands the ruling to say, “it’s not that the
program itself is unconstitutional, but that the funding needs to come from
somewhere else.” White added that, “we will find funding and keep
Moreover, as reported by the Associated Press, Governor Jindal had seen this
voucher program as a national model that he wanted to promote in his position
as head of the Republican Governor's Association.
How this struggle unfolds in Louisiana bears watching, in part because it
may indicate proposals and strategies that pro-voucher advocates will use