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Saturday, December 20, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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Voucher program to continue with funding from elsewhere

Last Modified: Wednesday, May 08, 2013 10:24 PM

By Natalie Stewart / American Press

Fourteen students attend St. Theodore Holy Family Catholic School in Moss Bluff through a state voucher program that was ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court on Tuesday, and the school’s principal said the program is crucial for students enrolled in it.

Jennifer Bellon said the program is vital in “serving children that want a better education.”

The high court, in a 6-1 decision, upheld a state district court ruling that the state constitution forbids using money designated for public schools in the state’s Minimum Foundation Program to pay for private school tuition.

The private tuition voucher program was pushed through the Legislature last year by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

“I wasn’t shocked by the ruling,” Bellon said. “I was sad about it. ... The sad thing about this is when you really get down to the basics of the program, it’s really all about social justice and helping the children that are not getting what they need out of the schools they were attending.”

State Superintendent of Education John White said in an emailed statement that the program will continue.

“On the most important aspect of the law, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of families,” he said. “The Scholarship Program will continue, and thousands of Louisiana families will continue to have the final say in where to send their children to school.”

White said the state Department of Education will work with the Legislature to secure another funding source to keep students in the program at the schools they’re enrolled in.

“We have had success with the students in our school,” Bellon said. “The Louisiana Scholarship Program is a great program, and it’s a successful program.”

Jindal said in an emailed statement that the voucher program would be funded through the state’s budget.

“This ruling means the Scholarship Program is alive and well. ... Before this reform, 44 percent of our schools were failing, we were spending nearly a billion dollars on failing schools and one-third of students were performing below grade level,” he said, adding that because of the program, “the number of failing schools is decreasing, scores are increasing and more Louisiana families have a choice.”

St. Theodore is one of two schools in Southwest Louisiana in the voucher program. The principal of Our Lady’s Catholic School in Sulphur couldn’t be reached for comment.

The Louisiana School Board Association, Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers began challenging Act 2 of Jindal’s education reform bill in June 2012.

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