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Home » Vouchers » Court Case » Why a Louisiana judge ruled school vouchers unconstitutional, WaPo, 12/2/12

Why a Louisiana judge ruled school vouchers unconstitutional, WaPo, 12/2/12

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Much of the reasoning in this Louisiana decision would appear to apply to our New Hampshire case.  In our case, about half our children are eligible and they do not have to be attending a poorly performing school.  The state aid that would essentially pay for their private, often fundamentalist Christian, education  ” … was never meant to be diverted to private educational providers,” as the Louisiana lower court judge reasoned.

Why a Louisiana judge ruled school vouchers unconstitutional.

A Louisiana state judge sided today with opponents of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s sweeping private school voucher program, ruling that it is unconstitutional because it improperly diverts public state and local money intended for public schools to private institutions.

Exactly what will happen to the more than 4,900 students now receiving money for vouchers is unclear, though it doesn’t seem likely that they will have to return the cash. Expect an appeal. Still, Jindal and members of his education team, who unsuccessfully argued that they had set up the program by the constitutional book, are now going to have to rethink it.


Update: Here are the legal materials, provided by Lee Barrios of Abita Springs, Louisiana



    NH Bill of Rights [Art.] 6. [Morality and Piety.] As morality and piety, rightly grounded on high principles, will give the best and greatest security to government, and will lay, in the hearts of men, the strongest obligations to due subjection; and as the knowledge of these is most likely to be propagated through a society, therefore, the several parishes, bodies, corporate, or religious societies shall at all times have the right of electing their own teachers, and of contracting with them for their support or maintenance, or both. BUT NO PERSON SHALL EVER BE COMPELLED TO PAY TOWARDS THE SUPPORT OF THE SCHOOLS OF ANY SECT OR DENOMINATION. And every person, denomination or sect shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no subordination of a ny one sect, denomination or persuasion to another shall ever be established.

    June 2, 1784
    Amended 1968 to remove obsolete sectarian references.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      Thanks, Tim. We definitely have a church/state issue here in New Hampshire, as you point out. The court challenge here will surely center on that. What I thought was particularly interesting about the Louisiana case is the judge’s reasoning that Louisiana’s voucher program violated state’s constitutionally-based requirement to fund education. We have a similar requirement to consider an adequate education a fundamental right of every child in New Hampshire. However, if state money is going to a private school – especially when there is no accountability for the school’s educational performance, as is the case here – then how can we assert that we are carrying out New Hampshire’s constitutional mandate to provide every child with an adequate education? As a non-lawyer, I thought the Louisiana case highlighted that additional issue.

  2. geauxteacher says:

    Some additional insight tnto the Louisiana case. For a copy of the complete ruling, email me at

    By Larry Samuel, LFT General Counsel
    It’s time to set the record straight…and correct the inaccurate media reports as to what our Act 2 lawsuit is all about.
    First, we are not claiming that the Act is “illegal.” We are claiming that it is unconstitutional. There is a difference. The constitution is the supreme law. Without it, the legislature has no power. The Constitution contains requirements that must be met.
    Second, we are not challenging the use of “taxpayer money” for vouchers. Taxpayer money has been used for vouchers for 4 years in Louisiana, and we never challenged it. Why are we lodging this challenge? Because the source of the money are funds contained in the Minimum Foundation Program. Why does this matter? Because Article VIII, Section 13(b) of the Constitution states that the formula “shall be used to determine the cost of a minimum foundation program of education in all public elementary and secondary schools as well as to equitably allocate the funds to parish and city school systems.”
    MFP money is going to online course providers, many of which are private (not public), out of state, and are by no stretch of the imagination “ elementary and secondary public school systems.” MFP money is going to post-secondary schools, which is clearly prohibited. Money is going to private and sectarian schools.
    Also, local funds are being allocated to online course providers, post-secondary schools, and non-public schools. These are funds that voters approved at the ballot box, that specifically state that the funds shall be used for public elementary and secondary schools. The Constitution prohibits these local funds from going to private schools.
    Third, in this lawsuit we are not challenging whether as a matter of policy, taxpayer money should or should not go to private schools. We fought that battle in the legislature (which is the appropriate place to raise policy issues) and we lost. This lawsuit challenges whether the constitution allows MFP money to be allocated to persons and entities that aren’t public elementary and secondary school systems.
    Fourth, this lawsuit has nothing to do with a religious challenge to vouchers. We have not raised the issue of whether voucher money going to religious schools is a violation of constitutional “separation of church and state” mandates.
    We are asking the Court to rule whether the MFP Resolution is a matter that is “intended to have the force and effect of law,” and if so, whether Act 2 violates other provisions in the Constitution, such as:
    The provision in the Louisiana Constitution that states that matters “intended to have the force and effect of law” must be filed in the legislature prior to a fixed deadline. We contend that because the legislature missed the deadline, the law has no force and effect.
    The provision in the Louisiana Constitution that states that matters “intended to have the force and effect of law” must be considered in the legislature prior to a fixed deadline. We contend that because the legislature missed the deadline, the law has no force and effect.
    The provision in the Constitution that states that matters “intended to have the effect of law” must receive a majority vote of the elected members of the House (which would be 53 votes). The MFP Resolution received 53 votes. Thus, it never passed.
    The provision in the Louisiana Constitution that requires a bill to have a “single object.” This provision is important because it recognizes that when a legislator casts a vote on a bill, he or she should not be faced with the dilemma of having to vote either for or against a bill that has many objects to it. We contend that the Bill that became Act 2 has a multitude of objects.
    The lawsuit asks the Court to rule solely on Constitutional matters. Not policy matters. Some call us the “Coalition of the Status Quo.” We prefer to be called the “Protectors of the Constitution.”

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