(AP) — A second teachers union sued Friday over Gov. Bobby Jindal’s voucher program, objecting to the use of the state’s public school financing formula to pay for tuition to private and parochial schools.
The Louisiana Association of Educators filed its lawsuit in Baton Rouge district court, asking for the newly passed legislation to be thrown out as unconstitutional.
“It’s about making things right. We cannot stand by and watch anyone violate the constitution,” said LAE President Joyce Haynes, talking to three dozen union members who rallied at the courthouse.
The lawsuit argues the process for passing a package of Jindal-sought education changes and their financing through the public school formula violated the Louisiana Constitution.
Lawmakers backed the ideas in the legislative session that ended this month. The voucher program is set to start in the upcoming 2012-13 school year.
Jindal characterizes the legal challenges as attempts to stifle reform that will give students in failing schools more educational opportunities.
The lawsuit claims Jindal and lawmakers are improperly paying for the voucher program, home-schooling, online courses, college tuition and independently run charter schools that won’t be affiliated with local school systems. The union objects to the use of the funding formula, known as the Minimum Foundation Program or MFP, for anything besides public school financing.
The legislation is unconstitutional “by diverting, to non-public schools and other non-public entities, funds that are constitutionally mandated to be allocated to public elementary and secondary schools to insure a minimum foundation of education,” the lawsuit says.
The LAE also says lawmakers didn’t follow the proper constitutional requirements for filing and passing the education programs and their funding.
Plaintiffs include the statewide union, 47 of its local affiliates and seven public school employees. Named as defendants are the state, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Education.
“We tried to convince the Legislature that the proposed laws were unconstitutional, but they were unmoved by our pleas,” Haynes said. “It’s now time for us to appeal to the courts.”
Union members also are supporting attempts to recall Jindal and a handful of lawmakers who backed the education revamp. A St. Tammany Parish public school teacher handed out Recall Jindal bumper stickers outside the courthouse Friday.
The LAE is joining another union, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which filed two lawsuits earlier this month against Jindal’s education initiatives, including the voucher program and an overhaul of teacher job protection and salary laws. A hearing is set in July to hear arguments on the LFT’s voucher lawsuit.
Legal challenges are being considered by local school boards across Louisiana as well.