Louisiana Supreme Court Rebuffs Teachers’ Unions

John Kramer
John Kramer · July 31, 2012

Arlington, Va.—On Wednesday, August 15, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied without opinion a request made by the teachers’ unions to halt Governor Bobby Jindal’s statewide scholarship program for low-income students attending poor performing public schools, before a decision on the merits of the case. The program empowers parents across the state to select the school that best meets their needs, whether public or private. Implementation of the program will continue pending a trial on the merits in October before Judge Tim Kelley.

“The Supreme Court’s decision means that there will be no delay in getting an educational lifeline to kids in underperforming and failing public schools throughout Louisiana,” said Bill Maurer, the Institute for Justice’s lead attorney on the case. “The quick action by the Supreme Court means that these kids and their parents can finally have a choice of schools instead a guarantee of mediocrity or ineptitude. Now we will move on to the trial where we expect the courts to uphold the program permanently.”

The Institute for Justice (IJ) represents two parents, Valerie Evans and Kendra Palmer, with sons in the program, as well as two organizations that have supported the program, the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the Alliance for School Choice, all of whom have intervened to help defend school choice in Louisiana.

In July, Judge Kelly denied efforts by the teachers’ unions to stop the scholarship program from being implemented, instead scheduling an early trial. The teachers’ unions then asked the Court of Appeals to stop the program, and that request was quickly denied. This Wednesday marks the third strike against the unions’ campaign to stop school choice in Louisiana.

The teachers’ unions do not challenge the underlying constitutionality of the scholarship program itself, but rather the use of Louisiana’s Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) for funding it. Further, they object to procedural aspects of the vote that approved the program’s inclusion in the MFP. The program represents an expansion statewide of a four-year-old program previously limited to the New Orleans public schools.

“We have great confidence that this program is constitutional and that it makes complete sense to fund it through the Minimum Foundation Program,” said IJ President Chip Mellor. “The fact that more than 10,000 students have applied to participate in the expanded program demonstrates that low-income families know when they’ve been given a raw deal in the public schools and that they are eager for alternatives.”