Not content with the multiple lawsuits that have been filed in an effort to block implementation of the new school voucher program in Louisiana, one of the state's teachers unions is now applying pressure against the individual schools accepting vouchers.
In the legislative session that ended this past June, Gov. Bobby Jindal converted a New Orleans scholarship program into a statewide school voucher system. State officials estimate that about 5,000 new slots will be available to students in the fall. The Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) have already filed suit arguing that the voucher program violates the state constitution. But now, the LAE has gone a step further by sending letters to the participating schools demanding that they withdraw from the voucher program.
One letter from LAE to a Catholic school is online here. Superintendent John White and Penny Dastugue, who chairs the state board of education, have issued a joint statement today condemning the threats. Several school choice advocacy groups have also weighed in, including the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the American Federation for Children, and the Pelican Institute.
Meanwhile, Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) President Joyce Haynes has issued a statement meant to clarify the intention of the letter her organization sent to the schools.
"The letter was our way of ensuring that Louisiana students don't have to pay for the unconstitutional maneuvers made by Governor Jindal and Superintendent White," she said.
LAE Attorney Brian Blackwell views the letter as a routine procedural move.
"We hope to prevent schools from having to pay back the money when the courts rule that Act 2 and SCR 99 are unconstitutional," said Blackwell. "The schools can still accept students on a contingency basis. The letter just provides an opportunity for the private or parochial school to agree to hold off using the money until the case has been finalized. The program is unconstitutional. The lawyers for the bishops know this and so does the governor. We are trying to prevent the spending of public dollars on unconstitutional programs."
Baton Rouge District Judge Tim Kelley has already rejected a petition from the unions to issue an injunction blocking implementation of the voucher program.
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