Originally published on Mon November 17, 2014 9:32 am
In 2012, when Louisiana’s taxpayer funded scholarship program was expanded statewide, Hosanna Christian Academy in Baton Rouge went all in.
In that first year, the school took on almost 300 voucher students, nearly doubling its enrollment. By the start of this school year, Hosanna had more voucher students than any other school in the state -- about 85 percent of its student are enrolled with a voucher.
Hosanna's students didn't score well enough on state tests, and it won't be allowed to enroll more voucher students next year. Still, headmaster Josh LaSage says the school isn't giving up.
The price tag for defending Gov. Bobby Jindal's education policies against legal challenges is growing.
The Department of Education is boosting its contracts for outside lawyers by $750,000, to represent the department in lawsuits against Jindal's voucher program that uses tax dollars to send children to private schools.
A majority of members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed Tuesday to the legal spending.
Vouchers in districts under desegregation orders at issue.
The Justice Department is suing Louisiana for issuing school vouchers to students in districts under desegregation orders. The federal government says the system is undermining racial balances in public schools.
Louisiana lawmakers went out of their way to add a $46 million line item to the state budget to allow more students from under-performing public schools go to private school through the voucher program championed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Both Wisconsin and Ohio have just pushed through major expansions of their voucher programs too. And both states -- like Louisiana -- are headed by Republican governors.
Sarah Carr, a writer for the Hechinger Report, says these governors are being strategic in their support of vouchers.
"It’s a way for them to make a name for themselves pursuing an education agenda that’s typically been embraced by conservatives and trying even to some extent to one-up each other in creating a bigger and bolder voucher program."
Hundreds of parents, children, teachers and administrators rallied on the steps of the Capitol calling on lawmakers to find a new way to fund private school vouchers, chanting "You promised/ to put kids first."
The old way to fund vouchers was ruled unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court last week because it routed money through a formula -- called the MFP -- that is dedicated to public schools.
Louisiana’s Supreme Court has ruled that money reserved for public schools can’t be used to pay for private school tuition under the state constitution.
The 6-1 decision, handed down Tuesday, undermines the school voucher program that was a keystone of the education overhaul pushed through the legislature by Gov. Jindal last year.
In a written statement following the ruling, Jindal said the program is, “alive and well.” Nearly 5,000 students are enrolled at private schools through the voucher program. Roughly 8,000 students have been offered vouchers for next year.