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Dec 02 2012

Louisiana Voucher Program Ruled Unconstitutional — The Good News and the Bad News

On Friday, a state judge in Louisiana ruled that the state’s school voucher program  — which allowed tax dollars to be used for schools that teach things like the Loch Ness monster is real and proves that the theory of evolution is wrong — is unconstitutional.

This is good news, but it would be much better news if the reason for the judge’s ruling was that using public funds for religious education was unconstitutional. But, rather than considering this a church/state separation issue, the basis of the ruling was that the state’s constitution prohibits using money appropriated for the state’s education fund for anything other than public schools. This gives the proponents of the voucher system an out. If the legislature appropriates money for the voucher program and keeps it separate from the state’s education fund, it wouldn’t be unconstitutional to use it for religious schools since the constitutional issue that was raised was merely about what fund the money is coming from and not that the money is being used to teach religion.

Bobby Jindal has vowed to appeal the decision, and the voucher program will continue pending the appeal.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    nedchamplain

    So much for Jindel’s “We have to stop being the party of stupid”.

  2. 2
    Zugswang

    Well, it’s just hard to be deceitful when you’re also stupid.

  3. 3
    Cinnabar Absinthe

    The Judge’s ruling is not that the practice is constitutional; it is that it violates existing law. It’s standard practice for judges to decide cases on the narrowest possible grounds. Since it was forbidden by existing law, the Judge didn’t have to reach the question of constitutionality. Jindal can change the law, continue the program, and then it can be challenged (again) on constitutional grounds. I don’t understand why the program continues while this is appealed, though.

  4. 4
    Chris Rodda

    @Cinnabar Absinthe … No, it’s not just a law that Jindal can change; it’s unconstitutional under the state’s constitution.

  5. 5
    geocatherder

    Sometimes it feels like we’re trying to break a really hard rock with a hammer. We whack and whack and get nothing but sparks and shards; the wins are too small, or they’re temporary.

  6. 6
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Go to geologists for your metaphors, puns, and beer.

  7. 7
    godlesspanther

    I have found lists of the outrageous things that are in “textbooks” from A Beka and Bob Jones.

    If anyone knows where I could find more specific information about this I would appreciate it. The questions that I have are:

    Which schools, that are receiving state funds, are actually using these texts as part of their curriculum?

    Where can I find information, that a Louisiana parent who is considering a private school for their children under this state program would read in order to help them make a decision?

    What is the criteria that the state has established that would make a private school eligible for this program?

    Are there specific things that would make a private school absolutely out of the question for consideration?

    In most (possibly all) states, there are different guidelines for private schools than there are for public schools. What sort of laws are private schools in Louisiana exempt from following?

    The news articles that I have found on this issue so far have not answered these questions. I believe that this sort of information being available on a national level would help prevent similar attempts in other states.

    If we can find a principal of a private school who is put on the spot and asked how they can justify using state funds to teach kids that there is a Loch Ness monster — that would help expose this stuff for what it is — and be quite entertaining.

  8. 8
    ladyatheist

    The day before Thanksgiving, Indiana’s voucher system was attacked in court on the basis of the First Amendment. We should hear the results of that soon.

  9. 9
    Cinnabar Absinthe

    @Chris Rodda I was not as clear as I thought I had been.

    If a practice is illegal under existing law, then a judge will use that as the basis for her ruling. The judge does not need to go to either State or Federal Constitution in her ruling — so she won’t. The judge does not address Constitutional questions if she does not have to.

    In this case, the Judge didn’t have to. The Constitutional argument remains untouched. I don’t question that what is described a violation; I agree with your opinion on that. However, the Judge didn’t need to use a Constitutional ruling (the judicial equivalent of a sledgehammer) when he had a flyswatter that worked perfectly well.

    The Constitutional objection (not being addressed), can be used at such time as it becomes needed, and not until.

    That’s why I said the ruling, as paraphrased by you, did not surprise me. Everything described sounded exactly like what should happen according to the US legal traditions.

    I think that I’ve correctly encoded my meaning this time.

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