Letter: School scholarships constitutional

In response to Our Views: “A dedication, not free money,” Dec. 22: Advocates of the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) program very deeply respect the constitution. We believe that it deserves to be highly regarded. However, there is an honest — and very passionate — dispute about how it is interpreted.

We believe a literal reading of Louisiana’s Constitution allows for public education programs to be delivered through means other than traditional public schools. There is no language prohibiting such funding in the state’s constitution.

Currently, the state is meeting its constitutional requirements by paying for all students who attend public school. Schools that claim to be “losing money” are still paid for each child they educate. When students and their parents choose to attend another school through a scholarship, the money — paid by taxpayers — follows the student, allowing parents a choice in their child’s education and for the state to continue funding public schools based on the number of students they educate.

This year, as in past years, the state’s Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) funds all sorts of nontraditional schooling in the state, including Type 2 charter schools, education for children expelled from public schools who must attend programs run by the Office of Juvenile Justice, the Louisiana Schools for the Visually Impaired and Deaf, the Louisiana School for Math and Science, and university lab schools — which leaves room to also include the scholarship program.

The constitution itself says in the children’s code that “parents should make the decisions” regarding the “educational training” of the child. Parental choice allows the constitution to be interpreted in a way that works for the people it is supposed to govern.

The writers of the original article are correct — supporters of educational choice are very ardent about quality options, because the educational foundation we set now will affect both the future of Louisiana and our country.

Louisiana’s children deserve better. Its constitution promises better, so it’s time to deliver on that promise.

Kevin Chavous, senior adviser

American Federation for Children

Washington, D.C.