Whether Vouchers Short Public Schools Argued in La. Supreme Court

Mar 19, 2013

Louisiana's state Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in the case challenging the statewide school voucher program.

The justices' questions focused on whether the state constitution allows vouchers for private school tuition to be paid for through the MFP -- the formula used to calculate support for public schools.

The plaintiffs in the case -- teachers unions and local school boards -- are feeling encouraged after the arguments.

At the start of the proceeding, Justice John Weimer said the state constitution is clear about where funds derived through the MFP must go: to city and parish school systems.

Until the program was expanded statewide last year, vouchers for students in New Orleans were paid for with a separate line item in the state budget.

Arguing on behalf of the state, attorney Jimmy Faircloth said to give schools and parents certainty, vouchers have to be funded through the MFP. The MFP is protected by the constitution. General fund line items are not.

$13 million in MFP funds are being withheld from local districts this year to pay for about 4,900 vouchers statewide.

If funds had been reserved elsewhere for the vouchers, Justice Weimer asked, "We wouldn't be here?"

In response, Robert Hammonds, attorney for the Louisiana School Boards Association said, "That's right, your honor."

The state Supreme Court could take a month or more to render a decision in the voucher case.