Teachers announced today that they have filed a lawsuit through the Louisiana Federation of Teachers against the Department of Education and BESE questioning the constitutionality of the legislative process that gave us HB 976 and HB 974.
Another statewide group of teachers issued a press release reminding us that the Louisiana Association of Educators previously filed a lawsuit alleging a miscaluclation in the Minimum Foundation Program funding.
It would seem that with all the lawyers benefiting from consulting contracts and salaries through the Department of Education, the legislature and Governor Jindal's office that these kinds of actions could have been avoided. Having to protect the rights of Louisiana's citizens should be a priority of the government and not require the expenditure of more money to defend those rights.
Leaders of the Louisiana Association of Educators Demand That BESE & Superintendent White Stop Stalling MFP Lawsuit
Deposition Concerning Miscalculation of Minimum Foundation Program Funds Ready to Move Forward
BATON ROUGE, LA – June 7, 2012 – LAE leaders demand that Superintendent John White and members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary of Education (BESE) stop delaying the legal process surrounding a 2011 lawsuit alleging a miscalculation in the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP). LAE President Joyce Haynes said her group welcomes the other legal challenges brought forth on Thursday, and demanded that White and BESE members move forward with the legal process by cooperating with the LAE’s outstanding suit.
“LAE brought forth this lawsuit last year in conjunction with leaders of the St. Helena Parish Association of Educators (SHPAE) and the St. Helena Parish School Board,” said Haynes. “It’s time BESE and Superintendent White stop stalling and get on with the proceedings.”
The suit Haynes is referring to alleges that the state illegally included parish sales tax revenue when calculating the MFP—the primary mechanism through which the state funds public schools. This miscalculation reduced the state’s funding obligation to Louisiana’s public schools by more than $2.4 million in St. Helena Parish and nearly $3 billion statewide--an issue that was addressed with members of the Louisiana House and Senate during the 2012 Legislative Session.
A motion was filed by BESE and Superintendent White to dismiss the case, but was denied by a judge late last year. Since then, LAE/SHPAE leaders and St. Helena Parish School Board members have been trying to move forward with the deposition of the Louisiana Department of Education, which is expected to reveal the total amount of funding lost by the St. Helena Parish School Board as a result of the alleged illegal practice. Questioning of the Department of Education is finally set to take place next month. Plaintiff Attorney Brian Blackwell said he intends to vigorously pursue the case toward trial and that the deposition of the Department of Education is an important step toward that goal.
“We hope to gather all of the evidence necessary to win this very important case,” said Blackwell. “It’s time these funds be returned to the rightful owners, the public school students of Louisiana.”
LAE has always been an organization whose members are open to change. During the session, the association brought forth several pieces of legislation to “improve” Governor Jindal’s plans, but almost every piece of legislation was resoundingly rejected by the Governor and his legislative supporters.
Haynes said that her organization’s best hope is to continue to appeal to the courts and move forward with the MFP legal challenge, saying it’s time for the courts to rule on what LAE and others have observed as unconstitutional votes, bills which did not meet constitutional standards, and the steam rolling of the legislature and the public.
“Governor Jindal, BESE, and Superintendent White should take these constitutional issues seriously,” she said. “We hope they don’t try to steamroll the courts like they did the Legislature.”