(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
The Louisiana Supreme Court struck down on Tuesday the state's new school choice law championed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. The state constitution forbids the use of public money for private schools, the court ruled.
The court did not reject voucher programs altogether, or rule on the of the merits of school voucher programs, but argued that diverting education funds from public schools to private schools was not allowed under the state's constitution.
"The state funds approved through the [school voucher] process cannot be diverted to nonpublic schools or other nonpublic course providers according to the clear, specific and unambiguous language of the constitution," Justice John Weimer wrote in the 6-1 majority opinion.
The voucher program would have allowed public school students to attend private schools by providing them with a voucher to pay for it.
In a press statement, Jindal said he would find another way to fund the program.
"We're disappointed the funding mechanism was rejected, but we are committed to making sure this program continues and we will fund it through the budget. The bottom line is that our kids only get one chance to grow up and we are committed to making sure choice is alive and families can send their children to the school of their choice," Jindal said.
The plaintiffs in the case were the Louisiana Association of Educators, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana School Boards Association.
"The constitution in this case was clearly written and the jurists did what they were supposed to do: look at it in an unbiased and non-partisan manner," said Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.
Louisiana's voucher program was one of the most ambitious school choice programs in the country. Many conservatives had been hoping it could serve as a model for the rest of the nation.
School choice has been one of the main issues Jindal, a possible presidential contender, has fought for in his career. In December, he delivered a speech on the topic at The Brookings Institution.
"It's time to bring American education out of the stone age and into the 21st century, a place where our choices are dramatically expanding, and a place where the old centralized government model is increasingly outdated and inefficient," Jindal said in that speech.