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Voucher Program Still Alive in La. District Despite Desegregation Ruling

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Despite a ruling from a federal judge last month that the voucher program in Louisiana's Tangipahoa Parish violated desegregation provisions, students in the 19,000-student school district currently attending private schools through publicly funded vouchers do not have to return to public schools immediately, thanks to a temporary order issued by a 3-judge panel in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last Friday.

The ruling allows the voucher program to continue while the decision is being appealed. Although the voucher program is run by the state, the ruling only affects students in the Tangipahoa Parish school district, where the initial desegregation ruling applied. About 50 students in the district are participating in the program , and the next round of payments from the state are due next week, according to this Associated Press article.

To be eligible for the vouchers, students must have attended a school that earned a C, D, or F grade under the state's accountability system during the 2011-12 school year, unless the student is beginning kindergarten for the first time. Families must also meet income eligibility requirements that set the limit at no more than 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

The voucher situation in Tangipahoa is the latest in a series of legal battles over school choice playing out in Louisiana, where the method of financing Gov. Bobby Jindal's sweeping education reforms, which would expand the state-run voucher program and allow students to take individual courses from a number of different public and private providers, has been ruled unconstitutional. That decision is currently being appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

In a speech last week at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Gov. Jindal, a Republican, expressed confidence that the appeal would succeed. But opponents of the governor's reform measures have a different perspective, seeing the ruling as the beginning of the end for the school choice initiative.

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