Louisiana Teachers’ Union Threatens Private Schools in State School Choice Program

By:  Michael Tennant
Louisiana Teachers’ Union Threatens Private Schools in State School Choice Program

The Louisiana state teachers' union sent letters to private schools participating in the state's school choice program threatening them with lawsuits if they do not withdraw from the program while the union challenges it in court.

 “Thuggery.” That’s the word most commonly being employed to describe the Louisiana teachers’ union’s latest attempt to prevent pupils from escaping their poorly performing public schools. After failing to get a judge to block the state’s school voucher program, the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) is now threatening private schools participating in the program with lawsuits if they do not withdraw from it immediately.

“The state of Louisiana specifically designed its voucher program, the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence, to serve low-income students trapped in failing schools,” Michael Q. McShane wrote at National Review Online.

In order to qualify for the program, the student had to have attended a school that was rated “C,” “D,” or “F” by the state accountability system and to have come from a family that makes less than 250 percent of the federal poverty line. Originally limited to Orleans Parish, the program is slated to expand statewide in August 2012. Students are allowed to take the vouchers to private schools, which do not have unionized teachers, a point of contention for the union.

The LAE first tried to get an injunction against the law authorizing the voucher program, arguing that it is unconstitutional, but District Court Judge Tim Kelley denied the request on the grounds that he did not have jurisdiction. The union then appealed to the circuit court; the case will be heard in mid-October.

Meanwhile, the LAE is trying to avoid what McShane termed “a PR nightmare”: winning its lawsuit in the middle of the school year, thereby forcing all the students who have since left the union’s failing schools — the state has already given out scholarships to over 5,600 of the 10,300 students who applied for them — to return to those same schools. “To circumvent this problem,” he remarks, “the unions are trying to prevent students from taking advantage of the program in the first place.”

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