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Union Challenges Louisiana Reforms In Court

“Louisiana education lawsuit: Teachers association expects protracted legal battle”
by Lauren McGaughy
Times Picayune
November 28, 2012

Louisiana’s recent education overhaul will be tested Wednesday in court as multiple teachers associations and school boards challenge the constitutionality of changes made this year to the state’s voucher program and teacher hiring rules. Ahead of Wednesday’s court case, Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) President Steve Monaghan told NOLA.com he expects a protracted legal battle with the Jindal administration.

“Pragmatically, one has to understand that the legal process doesn’t go like a blitzkrieg. It is a lengthy process that can take months and sometimes years,” Monaghan said Tuesday.

He added, “we are fully aware that the administration is very, very likely to appeal and to appeal to the Supreme Court.”

State Superintendent of Education John White came out against the lawsuit in June, issuing a statement that said, “The LFT is preventing parents from doing what they think is best for their children. It’s time to return our focus to teaching and classrooms, but the LFT keeps dragging us back to politics and courtrooms.”

The Washington, DC-based Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm, have also come out against the suit. They issued a statement this month condemning the suit.

“It is imperative that school choice flourish in Louisiana or else another generation of Louisiana schoolchildren will be condemned to educational purgatory,” the Nov. 20 statement read.

“Faced with an exodus of children from underperforming and failing public schools, teachers’ unions and school boards have sued to stop parents from making that choice,” it added.

Institute of Justice members, along with Ken Campbell, president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, and others will protest the suit tomorrow morning outside the court house in Baton Rouge.

The suit was brought by the LFT, Louisiana Association of Educators, Louisiana School Boards Association and 43 local school boards.

It challenges the constitutionality of the education overhaul, called Act 2, passed at the end of the last legislation session. The LFT said Act 2 violates Section 3 of the state constitution which says public education funding will go only to public schools and school systems.

LFT Director of Public Relations Les Landon told NOLA.com on Monday they are confident in their ability to win the suit.

“Ultimately we believe we will prevail and it will be demonstrated Governor Jindal steamrolled a blatantly unconstitutional issue through the legislature,” Landon said.

But the immediate outcome of the lawsuit and the media attention it has garnered — Monaghan said he has been contacted by national as well as local outlets — will be educating the public on legislative oversight and independence.

“The silver lining in all of this is an awakening of segments of the population who were either apathetic of the process or trusting of the process,” Monaghan said. “That was a field trip experience.”

The Act 2 suit will be heard tomorrow in Baton Rouge’s 19th Judicial Court District.

The LFT has also filed a separate suit against Act 1 — part of the education overhaul — of the legislative session, claiming it is also unconstitutional because its passage will effect multiple laws.

The state constitution does not allow these “bundled objectives” in one bill on the grounds it would discourage legislators from voting for a multi-part bill because they are opposed to just aspect.