AMITE — The Tangipahoa Parish School Board voted Tuesday night to join other districts across the state in challenging the constitutionality of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education revision package.
The resolutions, which the board approved 7-2, authorize the district to pursue litigation and to pay all reasonable costs in challenging the legality of Act 2, or House Bill 976, of the recent legislative session.
The act, which takes effect Aug. 1, authorizes the use of state school funds for vouchers allowing low-income students to move from poorly performing public schools to private or parochial schools.
The Louisiana School Boards Association sent letters to school boards across the state last week, notifying them of the association’s intent to file suit and encouraging them to join in the effort.
The association contends the act violates state and federal constitutional principles in three areas: bundling multiple legislative purposes into a single bill, using state public-school funding for private schools and using public funds to support religious schools.
Public funds are at a premium now, and the district cannot afford to have revenues sent elsewhere, Superintendent Mark Kolwe said.
The legislation is flawed, but the board’s focus would be better placed elsewhere, said board member Brett Duncan, who cast one of the two nay votes.
“The bottom line is it’s a distraction,” Duncan said. “We need to remain focused on improving our schools’ performance.”
The School Board can stay focused even while participating in the litigation, said board member Ann Smith, who also serves on the Louisiana School Boards Association’s board of directors.
“The people making these laws are not educators,” board member Gail Pittman-McDaniel said. “Some of them have no concept what it takes to teach a child.”
“We need to stand up and say no, this is not right for the educational system in our state,” McDaniel said.
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers filed a similar suit June 7.
Teacher unions and school system administrators are not often on the same side of a legal battle, said Mona Icamena, Louisiana Federation of Teachers representative for the parish.
“Congrats, and we welcome you into the fray,” she said.
Board member Sandra Bailey Simmons cast the other dissenting vote.
The Louisiana School Boards Association board directed attorney Robert Hammonds, of the Hammonds & Sills law firm, to prepare the suit for filing on or before June 29, association President John Smith said in the letter.
“Litigation is the last alternative, but the very survival of ‘public education’ is at stake,” Smith said.