(Baton Rouge – November 17, 2012) Two education laws pushed by Governor Bobby Jindal conflict with a desegregation order in Tangipahoa Parish and may not be implemented there, a federal court judge ruled today.
U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle agreed with the Tangipahoa Parish School Board that both Act 1 and Act 2 of the 2012 legislative session will upset the agreement that allows Tangipahoa Parish schools to operate within federal desegregation guidelines.
With more than 30 school systems operating under federal desegregation orders, today’s ruling raises the question of whether or not Gov. Jindal’s education agenda can survive. Courts in other jurisdictions may rule that the acts also violate their agreements.
Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan praised the judge’s ruling, saying that Gov. Jindal’s plan was hustled through the legislature too quickly for proper debate and oversight.
“There is an old axiom that says ‘haste makes waste,’ and Governor Jindal certainly created a lot of waste with the agenda that he rammed through the legislature last session,” Monaghan said. “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.”
Act 1, which the governor styles the “talent” act, bases virtually every aspect of a teacher’s professional life, including salary, tenure and termination, on evaluations and standardized tests. It also radically redefines the relationship between school boards and superintendents.
Act 2, called the “choice” bill by Gov. Jindal, expands a school voucher scheme statewide, dramatically increases the number of charter schools in the state, redefines accountability for charter schools and creates whole new categories of “course providers” to be funded with public education dollars.
In a request for injunctive relief filed last October, the Tangipahoa Parish School Board argued that provisions in Gov. Jindal’s bills “impair or impede” the district’s ability to comply with a court-ordered desegregation plan.
The governor’s voucher scheme, the board said, permits “’white flight’ that would otherwise not occur…” Provisions of Act 1 make it difficult for the district to maintain the racial balance required for faculties by the order, the board argued.
While Judge Lemelle’s ruling shuts down the governor’s program in Tangipahoa Parish, upcoming court actions may stop it statewide. On Wednesday, a suit filed by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers on June 7 will challenge the constitutionality of Act 2. The Louisiana School Boards Association and the Louisiana Association of Educators have joined as plaintiffs in that suit.
On December 17, LFT will have another day in court with a constitutional challenge to Act 1. LFT remains the sole plaintiff in the lawsuit claiming that Gov. Jindal’s evaluation agenda is unconstitutional.