ST. TAMMANY PARISH - Eight-thousand public school students hoping to attend non-public schools for free next year are in limbo after the Louisiana Supreme Court found the funding method for Governor Bobby Jindal's voucher program unconstitutional
The statewide program, which started this school year, was paid for with Minimum Foundation Program, or MFP, dollars. That money covered private tuition costs for students trying to escape failing public schools. But the Supreme Court says that money has to stay in public schools. The St. Tammany Parish School Board supports the ruling.
"We're elated,” said St. Tammany Parish School Board President Jack Loup, “We just never could understand how come it says in the constitution that the funds must go to public schools, yet we continually had fight back and so on from the administration"
State leaders say Tuesday’s decision will not derail them from continuing to give choices to families.
"It's a fairly simple fix, for us," said Jindal. "The money we will save we'll be able to spend in HB 1 to make sure these kids continue to have a chance."
Opponents of the way the voucher program had been paid for say they don't have a problem with the program itself.
“We're not against a child being able to go to a school that's going to give him a proper education," said Loup.
Parents who want into the program are crossing their fingers it remains an option.
"I'm disappointed about that news,” said Covington mother of three, Vickel Washington, “I hope they do get what they need to get."
HB 1, which the governor says will pick up the voucher tab, is next year’s state budget being debated in the legislature right now. It is unclear what happens to the money already spent on the scholarship program this past school year.