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State Superintendent of Education John White. (American Press Archives)

State Superintendent of Education John White. (American Press Archives)

Education chief suggests reworked voucher funding

Last Modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 6:48 PM

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana's education superintendent said Thursday that he has offered local school boards a new proposal to pay for the state's voucher program, rather than wait for a state Supreme Court ruling on the current financing.

But the idea floated by Superintendent of Education John White appeared to get little traction.

The leader of the state school boards association — which is suing White and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration over the voucher program — rejected White's proposal as attempting to sidestep the constitutional dispute.

A state district judge has ruled that Jindal, the state education board and lawmakers unconstitutionally paid for the voucher program through the public school funding formula. The Louisiana Supreme Court hears the case in March.

White insisted he's confident the Supreme Court will reverse the district judge's decision, but he said he's offered a reworking of the voucher funding to school districts that would bypass the funding formula.

However, the plan still would use the dollars that flow through it.

Under White's proposal, the state would send the money for a local school district's students, including voucher students, to the district in a lump sum. The district then would pay the tuition to the private schools for anyone in the voucher program.

That method would mean all money from the public school financing formula would be paid to a local school district, White said. If the state payment for a public school student is larger than the private school tuition, the local district would keep the difference for spending on public schools.

"We're just looking at other ways to do it rather than wait for the court to make a decision," White said in a conference call with reporters.

"It's a good deal financially to the school boards, and it would help ease the concerns of parents," he said. "I hope it is something they would agree to. If not, we'll wait for the courts."

Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, said the idea isn't going anywhere. He said school boards don't support anything that would divert dollars from public schools to private entities.

"We appreciate the opportunity to have dialogue with Superintendent White and the Office of the Governor. However, at this time there is no rationale to discuss the 'concepts' of furthering an already unconstitutional funding scheme," Richard said in an e-mail.

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