The teachers’ union in Louisiana, the Louisiana Association of Educators, are now sending demand letters from their lawyers to private schools in the state’s new voucher program warning them to pull out or they could be sued.
You can see the letter below, the name of the school has been redacted:
The Baton Rouge law firm, Blackwell & Associates, on retainer from the Louisiana Association of Educators, threatens to initiate litigation against individual schools if they do not pledge—in writing—by 4 p.m. local time today to cease participation in the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) program.
This letter came the day after the Louisiana Department of Education announced announced the extension of 5,637 scholarship offers to students to participate in the program this fall—just a portion of the 10,300 applications the Department received. This letter stands in stark contrast to the parental demands seen in Louisiana.
TheHayride.com points out that this could have a chilling effect to small schools participating in the program:
From a legal standpoint it’s understandable. The teachers’ unions are trying to beat the voucher plan with a lawsuit after failing to beat it in the legislative process, so it makes sense to sue the participants in the program along with the state.
Sue everybody. Because in doing so, you might get some people who decide to vacate the field and it works a bit like the injunction Judge Kelley wouldn’t give them. These are small private schools, after all, and most of them are not going to have the resources to fight a protracted, high-profile lawsuit against, essentially, the AFL-CIO. Letters like this might have a pretty good shot at picking off a few stragglers.
The American Federation for Children, a nationally known advocate for school choice, called the letter a bully tactic by the Louisiana Association of Educators. In a statement released yesterday, Kevin P. Chavous a senior advisor for AFC said, “It’s despicable that adults would use the threat of legal action to stop schools from accepting students who desperately want a better education, thereby squashing their dreams and those of their parents. Even by standards of the typical special interest bullying tactics, this is an unbelievably demeaning and insulting action that aims ultimately to hurt the futures of thousands of children.”
Of the initial SSEE voucher offers 84% of students attended a school rated at the “D” or “F” by the Louisiana Department of Education. This letter was also sent after new accountability measures, strengthening the program, were approved by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Also the state appeals court yesterday denied an attempt to block the voucher program from going forward.
Chavous, a former D.C. City Council member who has also worked for years to reform education in Louisiana, reiterated that the recent LAE move was unprecedented in its callousness. “Personal power should never, ever be put ahead of the best interest of disadvantaged children,” Chavous said. “These union leaders have no shame.”
The Pelican Post quotes Clint Bolick, the Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute, noted that this move by the teachers’ union is unprecedented, “In over two decades of school choice advocacy, I’ve never seen thuggery of this magnitude. What the unions can’t accomplish in the courtroom, they’re trying to achieve through bullying schools whose only offense is offering educational opportunities to children who need them.”
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