ON-Lion Letter
In March, the Louisiana supreme court heard oral argument in a case that will determine whether thousands of low-income schoolchildren in the state will be able to continue to attend the schools of their choice or whether they will be forced back into underperforming and failing public schools.  The case is just the latest attack on school-choice programs across the country by a sclerotic and unresponsive educational establishment.

The case, Louisiana Federation of Teachers v. State of Louisiana, concerns the state's transformative Act 2 law, which finally gives options for students long-ignored by the educational status quo last year.  Act 2 expanded a pre-existing program called the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program (SSEEP) and provides scholarships to students in a family "with a total income that does not exceed 250 percent of the current federal poverty guidelines" attending public schools rated C, D, or F by the Louisiana Department of Education.  Nearly 5,000 students are participating in the program and that number will grow as the program becomes more established.

Under the innovative program, parents can now choose to send their children to the school that is best for them.  However, faced with either having to provide a quality education to those in their care or experience an exodus of children to private options, teachers' unions and school boards immediately sued to stop parents from making that choice.

After a three-day trial in November 2012, a state trial-court judge rejected the plaintiffs' arguments that the legislature had not followed certain procedural requirements in the Louisiana Constitution.  The trial court nonetheless struck down the program because the court found that it could not be funded through the state's Minimum Foundation Program, a constitutionally created process that is used to fund almost all other educational options, including charter schools and specialty schools, there.

Valerie Evans and Kendra Palmer, two New Orleans parents who each have a son in the SSEEP program, and the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), a school-reform group that advocated for years for school choice in the Pelican State, intervened in the case, participated in the trial, and immediately appealed the trial court's judgment, as did the state.  Evans, Palmer, and BAEO are represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ) in Arlington, Va.  The unions and school boards also appealed the portions of the trial court's decision holding that the program met all the procedural requirements in the Louisiana Constitution.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports both BAEO and IJ.
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