BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A New Orleans-based federal judge halted Gov. Bobby Jindal's voucher program in Tangipahoa Parish on Monday, saying it conflicts with a decades-old desegregation case.
The ruling could have implications for the statewide program throughout Louisiana, since more than 30 of the 69 parish and city school districts are under federal desegregation orders, according to the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.
Many of those parishes also are participating in the voucher program, which covers 4,900 students around the state.
U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle ruled that a series of sweeping education changes pushed by Jindal and passed by lawmakers earlier this year clash with court orders in Tangipahoa's 47-year-old desegregation case.
Lemelle ordered a halt in Tangipahoa Parish, about 60 miles east of Baton Rouge, to the voucher program and changes in laws governing teacher salaries, job protection and hiring and firing.
The voucher program pays private school tuition for some students from low-performing schools. School-system attorneys argue it diverts state money from local schools and from efforts to comply with orders in the 1965 desegregation case seeking equal treatment and funding for all students.
School leaders also claimed recently enacted changes to laws involving teacher pay and hiring-and-firing standards conflict with federal court orders that spell out required hiring practices in Tangipahoa Parish and are designed to increase the number of black instructors in the district.
Superintendent of Education John White said that the voucher program doesn't affect the desegregation order and that officials will appeal the ruling.
Fifty students are enrolled in private schools in Tangipahoa Parish with taxpayer funds, and it wasn't clear Monday when they would be required to move back to the public schools they left. The voucher program is available to students from low- to moderate-income families who would otherwise attend a public school graded with a C, D or F by the state.
White said Tangipahoa Parish school leaders haven't offered any explanation as to why they can't meet the financial requirements of the court order, and he noted the district was receiving more money this year from the public-school funding formula than last year.
"We are optimistic it will be reversed on appeal. Our concern is with the children and the families who have escaped failing schools. We are committed to ensuring that these children can continue their education in the schools chosen by their parents," the superintendent said in a statement.
A hearing is planned in state court later this week for a lawsuit filed by two Louisiana teachers unions and dozens of local school boards, which claim the voucher program and other education changes that Jindal pushed through the Legislature are unconstitutional.
Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan praised the judge's ruling.
"There is an old axiom that says 'haste makes waste,' and Gov. Jindal certainly created a lot of waste with the agenda that he rammed through the legislature last session," Monaghan said in a statement. "There has been a waste of taxpayer dollars, a waste of time and a waste of resources that should have been dedicated to true education reform in our state."
JUNE 17 If anyone ever wonders why Saints fans hate Atlanta with a capital H, here's a good indication. Radio "professionals" at an Atlanta station created an entire segment around making fun of former Saints player Steve Gleason, who is now paralyzed by ALS. Listen, nobody's ever accused DJs of being rocket scientists. But how could someone think it is amusing to pretend to ask a man with a degenerative, fatal disease if he will be alive next week? The DJs have been fired, and are now whining about how gutless their former bosses are. Wow.
JUNE 18 Here's the latest from the Advocate on the fatal hit-and-run accident allegedly involving the president of the Livingston Parish School Board. He's accused by police of hitting a 21-year-old man on a highway early Sunday and driving away. The man died at a hospital later. On Monday, police seized the president's truck and towed it away. But he's available for board meetings: apparently a $500 bond is sufficient for this type of thing over in St. Helena Parish.
JUNE 18 Former broadcast journalist Griffin Scott has posted this plea on his blog for financial assistance from his readers. Scott, who says he was fired after he wrote something fairly innocuous (for Facebook) on his wall, is suing a media giant for his job back. He's framed himself as David going after a bloated media giant, and he's probably not far off.
JUNE 18 Here's a fairly absurd column posted on DIG Magazine about the completely absurd practice of naming killer storms. Tornadoes don't have names. Blizzards don't have names. But hurricanes do, and there's a big process to bestow them, Jacques Cormery writes. He's right about the crazy assemblage of names -- this year, there's everything from Tanya to Humberto -- and his idea that we don't waste good names on killer storms is a good one.
JUNE 17 Political columnist John Maginnis has some advice for Louisiana Republicans: grow up. After the schism that occurred in this past session - fiscal hawks teaming up with Democrats to spank the Republican "majority" and hand Gov. Jindal his, er, aspirations for continued solon control -- they need to figure out how to get along with each other, Maginnis writes.
JUNE 17 Here's the Picayune's obit story for Dorothy 'Miss Dot' Domilise, the lady who made poboys at the uptown restaurant that bears her name. Miss Dot moved to New Orleans during World War II, where she met and married her husband Sam. When she passed away Friday she was 90, and had spent more than 60 of those years working at the restaurant on Annunciation Street.
JUNE 17 This editorial in the Advocate speaks in favor of the consent decrees that have federal judges overseeing police operations and the sheriff's parish prison in New Orleans. Mayor Landrieu and Sheriff Gusman can't get along, so outside forces, like the Inspector General and the judges, are needed to make sure things run right, the editorial opines.
JUNE 18 Here's a post from Manny Schewitz on Forward Progressives that is good for a chuckle. Manny had an epiphany back in November, and is sharing it with us today: he believes that Fox "News" is killing the GOP by pandering to right wing nuts. Now, don't get it twisted: Manny's not broke up about it. He says he enjoys watching the downward spiral with a shot of whiskey and "a schadenfreude chaser."
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again, it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to go public this year.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.