Gov. Bobby Jindal's commissioner of administration Paul Rainwater. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 2:38 PM
The Calcasieu Parish School Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to officially join more than 30 other parishes in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the statewide voucher program and its funding plan.
“We felt as a board that this is an attack on us. It’s against public education. We felt it was too important to sit back and let some of the other school districts that have already joined the lawsuit do it on their own,” said Randy Burleigh, the District 9 School Board member.
“We should be liable for some of that cost, and we should stand up and join this. As the vote was unanimous, we felt strongly against it.”
The measure was originally brought forth during the recent budget committee meeting.
The board also approved the Hammonds and Sills Law Firm as the special counsel in connection with the litigation.
“That was the other part of this here tonight. We voted unanimously to approve this law firm to handle it,” Burleigh said.
The other school districts and teacher unions already involved in the lawsuit went to court Tuesday morning to attempt to prevent the start of the voucher program while litigation was ongoing.
Baton Rouge Judge Tim Kelley refused the request. The program will begin in August as scheduled.
Kelley determined he couldn’t issue an injunction blocking the program’s start because of a law that bars injunctions if a state agency chief says one would cause a deficit in the department.
The Gov. Bobby Jindal-backed superintendent of Education, John White, and the governor’s top budget adviser, Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, said in affidavits to the court that the Department of Education would face a deficit if the laws creating and funding the voucher program were blocked.
The two sides disagreed over whether an injunction would create a budget hole. But Kelley said that under the law he’s not allowed to decide whether he believes the Jindal administration is correct about the deficit because the affidavits have been filed.
“I just don’t see how I can give you an injunction once I have those certifications,” Kelley said, citing four cases where the appeals court has interpreted the law that way.
Kelley did question the wisdom of the law, saying anyone could “stick an affidavit in there saying anything you want it to say and you remove my jurisdiction.”
The unions and school boards hadn’t decided yet whether they would appeal Kelley’s decision against the injunction.
No date has been set for a hearing on whether the voucher program and the school financing plans are unconstitutional.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.