School Board pays into voucher suit kitty

The Livingston Parish School Board on Thursday approved a payment into a legal defense fund for costs associated with the state court challenge to the constitutionality of the funding mechanism supporting the state’s voucher program.

The district joined 42 other school boards in the lawsuit against the state, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Louisiana Department of Education, challenging the use of Minimum Foundation Program funds to pay for vouchers.

Judge Tim Kelley, of the 19th Judicial District, ruled after a three-day hearing that the state unconstitutionally diverted those funds, which are dedicated to public elementary and secondary schools, to private schools and other course providers.

State officials have said they will appeal that ruling to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

The Louisiana School Boards Association estimated legal costs in the case will reach $125,000, according to a Nov. 14 letter to the district from association Executive Director Scott Richard.

The association calculated each district’s share of the cost on a per-pupil basis, Superintendent John Watson said.

With a Feb. 1 student enrollment of 24,453, Livingston’s share is $7,580, he said.

The School Board voted unanimously to pay that amount into the association’s Act 2 Litigation Fund.

Act 2 is the so-called voucher bill. Under Act 2, students who attend public schools rated C, D or F under the state accountability system and who meet income rules can apply for state aid to attend private or parochial schools.

Other business before the School Board included:

PERSONNEL MOVES: Watson announced the promotion of Rick Wentzel from human resources supervisor to assistant superintendent.

Supervisor of Instruction Bruce Chaffin moved into the human resources position, and Lori Cothern was hired as instruction supervisor, Watson said.

Transportation Director Steve Vampran will help the human resources department by assuming responsibility for classified employees, increasing from 300 to 900 the number of personnel he oversees, Watson said.

LIVE OAK CONSTRUCTION: The board accepted as substantially complete the new Live Oak High School complex, pending a final inspection and certificate of occupancy by the state Fire Marshal’s Office on Friday.

The school will hold an open house Sunday to help students and parents learn their way around campus before students begin classes there Monday, board member Kellee Hennessy Dickerson said.