Bobby Jindal, possible 2016 presidential candidate and governor of Louisiana, has been dealt a heavy blow by his state’s supreme court. One of his pet projects, school vouchers for the state’s poorest, has been ruled unconstitutional. MSNBC reported that the 6-1 vote was the second blow to Jindal's program to allow poorer students to attend private schools, noting, "A state judge had previously ruled the program unconstitutional last November.”
Jindal and his administration have continued to push the program despite legal hurdles all along the way. Fox News reports,“The Jindal administration has pushed on with the voucher program, despite the previous court rulings. Roughly 8,000 students have been approved for vouchers in the coming school year. It remains unclear how the program will be funded, now that use of the MFP money has been struck down.”
Teachers unions, as one might expect, have been leading the fight against this program, putting their own interests over those of poor students. This has happened in every state that has tried to bring in school vouchers to let poor children attend private schools. The Washington Post details the components of the opposition: “Two statewide teachers’ associations and a group of school boards filed legal challenges shortly thereafter.”
In the actual ruling, the reasons for the program's unconstitutionality are more procedural than principled, according to the The Times-Picayune. One has to wonder how the advisers on this bill could get the procedure so wrong that it made a challenge to it easy to pursue. “Instead of passing a law, the Legislature appropriated the MFP funds by passing a resolution, SCR 99," the Picayune wrote. "However, that resolution 'was intended to have the effect of law,' according to the court, and it was filed after the deadline for introducing new bills, rendering it invalid.” Therefore it is possible that if done properly, the program ccould be reinstated.
It is, of course, a great shame for clever students in the Louisiana education system who want a better education for themselves (or their parents). After all, the state is not known for the quality of its education system. Louisiana certainly does not prepare its students well for high-skilled jobs like engineering, according to this report on the Huffington Post: “In recently released rankings of how states' primary education systems are preparing students for careers in engineering, Mississippi trails as the worst in the country, following West Virginia and Louisiana.”
It will be interesting to watch if Jindal goes back to the drawing board on the program and adjusts it to fit in with the ruling. No doubt if Jindal has presidential ambitions he will want this to be fixed sooner rather than later.