Voucher program lawsuit goes to court

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - District Court Judge Tim Kelley will rule this week on whether Act 2, known as the Voucher Program, is unconstitutional.  The Voucher Program is just one part of Governor Bobby Jindal's education reform.  However, some say what the program hinders education.

The program allows students in low-performing schools to obtain a voucher to use state funds to attend a private or parochial school.   The Louisiana Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit earlier this year, saying the constitution prohibits money meant for public schools to be used otherwise.   The Louisiana Association of Educators and 43 school boards are also involved in the lawsuit.

"The MFP, as spelled out in the constitution, has been traditionally used to fund public elementary and secondary education.  The words mean what the words mean," said Steve Monaghan, President of LFT.

Representative John Bel Edwards was the first witness called Wednesday morning.  He told the judge he believed the Governor's reform measures were bad policy from the start.  He says that's why he voted against the bills when they came up during this past session.

"In this bill that we're talking about, Act 2, we actually say that charter schools no longer have to hire a single certified teacher.  We got rid of the 75 percent threshold that said they don't have to hire any certified teachers.  How does that improve student performance?  How does that improve educational outcomes?  So everything that's cloaked in terms of reform is not improving," he said.

Before the trial started, parents who support the vouchers gathered outside the courthouse, saying the state vouchers gave them an option to send their children to better-performing schools.  The teacher unions say because private schools are not held to the same standards as public schools, there's no way to know if a private school is better.

Judge Kelley says he will make a ruling, following all the testimony.  An appeal from either side is likely to follow the judge's ruling.

Day two of the trial continues Thursday.

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