July 31, 2013
On May 7, 2013, the Supreme Court of Louisiana ruled that its state’s statewide voucher program, an expansion of the New Orleans/Jefferson Parish voucher adopted in 2008, violated the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) of the Louisiana Constitution.1 Article 8, Section 13(B) of the Louisiana Constitution specifies that:
[MFP] funds appropriated shall be equitably allocated to parish and city school systems according to the formula as adopted by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or its successor, and approved by the legislature prior to making the appropriation.2
The Supreme Court held that once funds are dedicated to the MFP, they cannot be used for any purpose other than to support public school systems. The court also rejected defendant’s claim that funds appropriated in excess of necessary public school funding could be used for vouchers. The court determined that using the MFP process for vouchers was also constitutionally impermissible.
The court also rejected the argument that voucher students are public students entitled to state funding under MFP, citing the constitution’s specific language requiring the funding of public schools, not school children.
Finally, the Supreme Court clearly stated that this ruling did not address the merits of the voucher program, only the funding mechanism. Subsequent to this decision, the Louisiana Legislature funded the voucher program through a line item appropriation; no child’s education has been interrupted as a result of this decision.
*Leslie Hiner is a vice president at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. She has been a member of the Indiana State Bar since 1985 and is a former president of the Federalist Society Indianapolis Lawyers Chapter.
1. Louisiana Federation of Teachers v State, Nos. 2013–CA–0120, 2013–CA–0232, 2013–CA–0350, (La. May 7, 2013).
2. LA. Const. art. 8, § 13(B).