Court Permits Parents and Organizations to Intervene To Defend Louisiana’s New School Choice Program

John Kramer
John Kramer · July 9, 2012

Arlington, Va.—Just hours after moving to intervene in an ongoing suit challenging Louisiana’s new school choice program, the 19th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge granted the motion and permitted parents and organizations of parents to become parties in the case to defend the program. The program has been challenged by school boards and teachers’ unions seeking to preserve the state’s educational status quo. The Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that is the nation’s leading legal advocate for school choice, filed papers with the court seeking to represent these parents and school reform groups as the case proceeds. The parents moved to intervene at 10 a.m. Monday, July 9, 2012, and the court granted the motion that afternoon.

In April 2012, Governor Bobby Jindal signed into law Act 2, his innovative effort to improve elementary and secondary education in Louisiana by giving parents more choices in the education of their children. Despite having been enacted only recently, response to the program from parents across Louisiana has been strong and positive. More than 5,000 applications from new families have been received, as well as renewal applications from the nearly 2,000 families in the preexisting New Orleans program.

The intervening parents and the Institute for Justice seek to support the new statewide voucher scholarship program that allows low-income families with children assigned to underperforming and failing public schools to apply for state scholarships to attend participating private schools of the parents’ choosing. For many families the new program represents their first opportunity to choose their children’s schools instead of having to accept assignment to the public school nearest their homes.

The court’s grant of the motion means that the parents’ and organizations’ voices will be fully heard in the case going forward. The intervenors are Valerie Evans and Kendra Palmer, school choice moms from New Orleans, and two organizations that have long advocated for greater school choice in Louisiana, the Alliance for School Choice and the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

The Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm located in Arlington, Va., has served since its founding as the lawyers for the school choice movement. Besides providing legal counsel in the drafting and creation of school choice programs, IJ also assists in the legal defense of these programs if they are challenged. IJ successfully represented parents as intervenors in both school choice cases considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002) and Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn (2011), as well as in cases upholding school choice programs decided by the supreme courts of Arizona, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Joining with the Institute for Justice to represent the parents and organizations are Greg Grimsal and Elizabeth Spurgeon, both of the New Orleans firm of Gordon Arata.