State Voucher Debate Continues - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

State Voucher Debate Continues

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The debate over the new state school voucher program is heating up.

Two teacher unions have filed lawsuits to try to put a stop to several of Governor Jindal's new education laws.

News Channel Five's Brooke Buford found out that there are still some supporters of the vouchers.

St. Frances Cabrini School in Alexandria wants to open it's doors and it's classrooms to 40 new students.

"Today's youth, some of them are disadvantaged in the public school system," said Joseph Wiederholt, principal of the school. "And, we want to continue our mission and our ministry to those children." 

Cabrini is one of several schools around Central Louisiana that has opted to take on students for the new state voucher program.

"We have received to date, over 60 applications," said Wiederholt. "And, we get five or six each day."

The program would allow students from under performing schools to enter a lottery application process for a chance to transfer to a private school.

And while teachers there are on board...

"They have no concerns at all," he said. "They're all very well qualified to teach these children. they're very excited about the program. they're ready to work with them."

Some are not. Two teacher unions, the Louisiana Association of Teachers and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, are suing to get the changes repealed because they say it's unconstitutional.

"The constitution indicates that it can not be used for religious faith based, those monies toward those different groups," said Leona Venson, of the Rapides Federation of Teachers. "It's public money being used for that. I would like to say that it's disappointing that the governor and his people would indicate that we are being the status quo because we have filed lawsuit." 

But according to the state superintendent, this is a matter of parents choices, not teachers.

"First of all, I don't think there is one teacher voice across the state," said Superintendent John White. "I think there are 55,000 teachers and 55,000 different teacher opinions. Parents overwhelmingly support the idea that they should be able to choose the best school for their child. In a small number of instances, that will be through the scholarship program. And, in a vast majority it will be at the neighborhood public school."

For Cabrini School, the staff and faculty says they are ready to welcome the new students.

"We'd like to see these children coming into our school to become an active part of our school and what we stand for in our mission and ministry at Cabrini School," said Wiederholt. "And, we look for their involvement as well as their parents involvement in our school." 

Superintendent White says he doesn't believe the lawsuit will be a problem for the state, because it's constitutional.

For more information on the voucher program, log on to www.doe.state.la.us

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