Some Children Left Behind: Reconsidering Louisiana’s School Voucher Program

Last year, the Louisiana Supreme Court found the state school voucher program unconstitutional, and recently the troubled program has made news again.1 In August, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to enjoin implementation of the program in parishes that are under federal school desegregation orders.2

Despite these significant legal challenges, however, Governor Bobby Jindal and some state lawmakers continue to vehemently defend the program. In the wake of the recent rulings, these officials are attempting to redesign the program to avoid running afoul of state and federal law. As the Legislature is reconsidering how to implement the program, there is another significant legal hurdle that program advocates will likely need to address if the program is to survive. Specifically, legislators will need to reconsider the participation of students with disabilities, or special education students.

Currently, there are two separate programs through which special education students may obtain a private school voucher: the general voucher program that accepts both disabled and non-disabled students, or the special education voucher program specifically designed for students with disabilities. Unfortunately, neither of these programs does a satisfactory job of ensuring equal access to educational opportunities for special education students.

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