For the second time in a few months, Gov. Bobby Jindal's education reforms have been struck down by a Republican-appointed judge. And while Gov. Jindal is publicly expressing confidence in the case's outcome in future courts, the decisions should cause some concern for those seeking similar reforms.
For background, Jindal essentially created statewide vouchers and did the following on administrative reforms, as described by the Huffington Post's Joy Resmovits:
The 2012 law ended the practice of firing teachers in reverse order of their seniority, a major win for the reform crowd. It also made it harder for teachers to get tenure, required that the state schools chief review all school superintendent contracts, and pulled back on the power of local school boards.For Ohioans, those reform measures should sound familiar because it has many components that have also been pushed here. In fact, the Cleveland Plan did away with much of the first in, last out provisions in employment contracts, as well as tenure. Louisiana's law was hailed by many corporate reformers. It is unclear whether these legal findings will impact the ability of the reforms to take hold elsewhere.
Couple what's happened in Louisiana on Vouchers and teacher reform with the separate rulings out of California and Illinois that found Charter Schools to not be public schools, even though they are designated as such throughout those state's codes, and one wonders about the future of many of these measures.
Regardless of what one thinks of these provisions, the fact that courts on both sides of the aisle are striking them down should cause one pause. And as Ohio goes full-steam ahead with its expansion of Vouchers in Gov. John Kasich's new education plan, there are issues with that as well.
For instance, Kasich has specifically earmarked State Lottery Profits for vouchers, which are directly paid to private schools. As I have discussed earlier, I'm not sure designating lottery money for private schools is constitutional, given that voters chose to institute a lottery in the 1970s for public schools. Particularly telling was when the Governor's education advisors were asked last week about the constitutionality of that provision, they declined to comment.
In addition, shifting focus away from "rescuing" kids from poor performing districts to granting parents more choices is a fundamental shift from the reasoning for the Cleveland Voucher program, which was held as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the early 2000s.
It is unclear whether parental choice would be a constitutionally acceptable reason to divert public funds to private institutions. It seems, though, that with the shift in reasoning for vouchers would come a different constitutional analysis -- one that may not hold parental choice in as high a regard, in a legal sense, as rescuing children from failing schools did.
For as we now know, Ohio's voucher children perform no better, and in some cases worse, than the children who remain in the public school.
I don't know if any of these issues will pop up during subcommittee this week, but I think they definitely need to be explored.