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Judge Strikes Down Expanded La. Voucher Program

A state judge has struck down a Louisiana law authorizing private school vouchers for low-income students in struggling public schools.

State District Judge Timothy E. Kelley of Baton Rouge ruled on Friday that the expansion of an existing voucher program established for New Orleans students, as well as new options that provide public payments to online education providers, colleges, and technical programs, violates the state constitution. The programs were backed by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal and were enacted earlier this year. My colleague Sean Cavanagh has more on the ruling in this post at his Charters & Choice blog.

After a three-day trial last month, Judge Kelley also struck down a legislative measure approving the state minimum foundation program for 2012-13 that transfers money for the new educational options from the foundation funding of the participating student's school district.

"Vital public dollars raised and allocated for public schools through the MFP cannot be lawfully diverted to non-public school entities," Judge Kelley said in his Nov. 30 decision in Louisiana Federation of Teachers v. State of Louisiana.

The programs were challenged by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the Louisiana Association of Educators, and the Louisiana School Boards Association. LFT President Steve Monaghan said in a statement that "no governor and no legislature can ride roughshod over our foundational governing principles."

Gov. Jindal said in a statement that the ruling was "wrong headed and a travesty for parents across Louisiana who want nothing more than for their children to have an equal opportunity at receiving a great education."

He suggested the decision would be appealed and the legal questions ultimately decided by the state supreme court.

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