Party politics: Dueling statements on judge's ruling that La. school vouchers are unconstitutional



Baton Rouge Judge Tim Kelley has ruled that the state's newly expanded voucher school program is unconstitutional.

In an emailed statement, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu says she's not surprised that the controversial voucher program was overturned.

β€œIt is no surprise that State District Judge Tim Kelley today ruled the unnecessarily aggressive and overreaching statewide voucher program unconstitutional. A strategic use of state-funded vouchers could be appropriate, but this diversion of public education dollars was a step too far and diminishes resources for meaningful reform efforts already underway at the local level. Judge Kelley was correct in setting appropriate limits.”

Even though today's ruling seems to strike a blow to the voucher program, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's Superintendent of Education John White says, in a very brief emailed statement, that he's not giving up.

"We strongly disagree with the ruling. We are optimistic this decision will be reversed on appeal."

(More after the jump)

He doesn't get the last word. The Louisiana Democratic Party counters with some "calls" and "urges."

"The Louisiana Democratic Party calls for an immediate halt to Governor Jindal's unconstitutional voucher program in the face of this ruling, and a return of all funding and students to local public school districts," Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Karen Carter Peterson said today after the Jindal voucher plan was declared unconstitutional. "We urge the Governor not to appeal this decision and to refrain from inflicting further needless harm on the public school system by pursuing this unconstitutional program."

"Judge Tim Kelly's decision to declare Act 2 β€” Governor Jindal's voucher plan β€” an unconstitutional use of Minimum Foundation Formula Program dollars is a victory for all those who believe that public education is an essential pillar of our democracy and of our prosperity," Chairwoman Peterson said upon learning of the ruling.

"The state Constitution is very clear that MFP dollars are reserved for the funding of public education and Judge Kelly's ruling has confirmed that fundamental fact," Chair Peterson said. "Governor Jindal chose to ignore the Constitution and strong-armed this bill through the Legislature without affording time to consider the bill and its implications. But, what makes the United States unique among nations is our long history of the rule of law and that rule was reaffirmed today by Judge Kelly."

"There are ways to amend the Louisiana Constitution, but Governor Jindal deliberately sought to short-circuit that process and essentially privatize public education by directing MFP dollars into the coffers of private school operators," LDP First Vice Chair Shane Riddle said. "Our children, our communities and our state deserve better than radical social experimentation the likes of which the Governor offered in his unconstitutional bill."

But then Jindal himself (or rather his spokesman's Twitter stream) tells us he is sad.



Which means that this has (inevitably) turned into a Twitter fight.





Of course, not everyone is so adept at Twitter fighting.


Here's the full statement from state Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell:

"It saddens me to think that the children of Louisiana whose parents chose to remove them from potentially failing schools might now be required to send them back to those institutions. The Constitution of Louisiana is 40 years old, and there are many areas in which former legislators seemed to go overboard in protecting areas of funding without any measure of accountability. I trust Judge Kelly could not get around certain areas of law and rule in favor of the children seeking better educational opportunity, and was forced by legal language to rule in the manner he did.

"This decision will certainly be appealed, but there is more than one way to fund these scholarships. This is a brief setback to those hoping to improve from Louisiana's current 48th ranking among the states, yet an encouragement to those who support a status quo. Fortunately, there are many in the Legislature who remain unwilling to accept our current standing and who are determined to make Louisiana a state of opportunity for our children."

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