Months after a court struck down Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) school voucher program, the Republican star is suffering another major judicial blow to his education agenda. On Monday, a Baton Rouge judge threw out Jindal's major education-reform package, reports the Associated Press.
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.
Republican Judge Michael Caldwell had previously upheld most of the law after overruling the piece that limited the school boards. But after re-reading the bill at the behest of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Caldwell threw the whole bill out on Monday, according to the AP. The national teachers' union rejoiced at the news.
Like the voucher ruling, the decision here is more technical rather than an evaluation of the merits of these policies as they relate to Louisiana's schools. This fact was not lost on Jindal, who plans to appeal the ruling. "While the ruling does not judge the substance of the law, we're disappointed that the court reversed its original ruling," he said in a statement according to the AP. "We expect to prevail in the state Supreme Court."
In a December engagement in Washington, D.C., Jindal defended his vouchers on similar grounds -- despite the fact that many of the Louisiana private schools that opened their doors to public school students under the program have been discredited for things like teaching about the existence of the mythical Loch Ness beast, or stating that they have no services for students with certain disabilities. "We're taking our fight to the Supreme Court, and I'm confident that we'll prevail," Jindal said at the time.
When I asked Jindal why he was so confident, he said, "It's clearly legal and clearly the intent is that we fund children's education and not bricks and mortars."
UPDATE 6:25 P.M. Jindal's press office was kind enough to send over the full text of the governor's statement. You can read it for yourself below.
While the ruling does not judge the substance of the law, we're disappointed that the Court reversed its original ruling. We expect to prevail in the state Supreme Court.
When we embarked on this path of reform, we knew this would not be an easy fight because the coalition of the status quo is entrenched and has worked to hold Louisiana teachers and students back for decades.
Despite the fact that the people of Louisiana voted for reform, the coalition of the status quo is attempting to use every legal obstruction to block reforms that reward good teachers and give more choices to families.
We know that the families and teachers of our state deserve better. On behalf of the people of Louisiana that voted for reform, the good teachers who are working hard every day but are being held back by the status quo, and the parents and kids who deserve a choice - we will continue fighting and we are confident that we will prevail.
The nation's second largest teachers' union, the American Federation of Teachers, just issued a cheerful statement about the ruling from AFT President Randi Weingarten:
Judge Caldwell's decision upholds the rule of law in Louisiana and should be a wake-up call to so-called reformers determined to ram through top-down dictates that undermine the voice of educators and public schools at all costs. Breaking laws has consequences.
Louisiana needs to develop education reforms in a lawful manner and with teachers. The best way to develop legislation that will actually improve teacher quality and student achievement is to work collaboratively with teachers, who are in the classrooms every day and are closest to the students. States and school districts that recognize the importance of teacher input have developed innovative, smart education reforms that are making a difference for all students.