Teachers, Leave Those Schools Alone!

A teacher’s union in Louisiana, the “Louisiana Association of Educators” has taken to threatening legal action against schools that accept educational vouchers from the state.

Schools that are accepting vouchers received a letter (seen below) from attorney Brian Blackwell of Blackwell and Associates in Baton Rouge.

The letter asserts that voucher program, known as the “Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence” is “blatantly unconstitutional” which is an odd claim to make as just two weeks ago, Judge Tim Kelley denied an injunction sough by Blackwell and Associates on behalf of the teacher’s union to stop the program. Blackwell and the union are appealing and the case is headed to the 19th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The teachers union lost the fight to prevent a voucher system in Louisiana so now they have taken to the courts to prevent what the parents, students and citizenry of Louisiana want – a good education for the children of the state. How bad is the education system in Louisiana?

The American Legislative Exchange Council ranks Louisiana 49th out of 51 states and the District of Columbia when it comes to performance of schools. The US Department of Education ranks Louisiana in the bottom 10 states in the union when it comes to education. All this is in spite of of Louisiana having more teachers per capita than the national average, as well as having an average class size of 14.2 students compared to the national average of 15.6 students per classroom according to the NEA.

It doesn’t take a genius to see the state of education in Louisiana is deplorable and instead of being held accountable for their failures, the union is seeking to blame those who wish to have a quality education for their children.

Instead of fixing the issue of quality education, the union went out and hired Blackwell and Associates who sent the letter to schools enrolled in the voucher program basically threatening them with legal action (based on what theory he never explains) but Blackwell is “kind” enough to include a form letter the school can send to the John White, the Superintendent of the School System opting out of the voucher program. As long as the school sends White the letter and sends a copy to Blackwell, the union won’t include the school in any sort of legal action.

Isn’t that nice of Blackwell? /sarcasm off

Many people are shocked by this action taken by Blackwell and Associates and the teacher’s union.

Eric Lewis
, head of the Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options, was incensed about the letters. “The threat of legal action against participating schools in the scholarship program have got to be the most disgusting ploy yet,” he said this morning upon hearing of this latest gambit.

Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute, a lawyer who represents the side of school choice advocates across the country…

“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.”

UPDATE #2: Now, the American Federation for Children has jumped into the fray…

The American Federation for Children—the nation’s voice for school choice—today condemned the actions of the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE), after counsel for the teachers union yesterday sent threatening letters to schools participating in Louisiana’s statewide voucher program, urging them to drop out of the program or face a lawsuit from the union.

The letter comes despite a judge’s ruling two weeks ago that dismissed a union attempt to get an injunction stopping the program.

In the letter, which was faxed to participating voucher schools yesterday evening, a law firm retained by the LAE union threatens to initiate litigation against individual schools if they do not pledge—in writing—by 4 p.m. local time tomorrow to cease participation in the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) program.

Kevin P. Chavous, a senior advisor to the Federation, denounced the bullying tactics as a remarkably cruel attempt to block children from attending the schools their parents have chosen for them.

“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,” Chavous said. “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.”

The threatening letters to schools on behalf of LAE are in contrast with the strong demand for the program. LAE’s actions came just a day after the Department of Education 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—illustrating that any attempts to stop schools from participating in the program are at odds with the demand from parents.

Of the initial scholarship offers, 84 percent of students in first through 12th grade attended a school rated “D” or “F” by the state last year.

An accountability proposal from the department was also approved by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) on Tuesday, further strengthening the program prior to yesterday’s bullying letters.

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.”

In my 16 years of promoting school choice, I have never seen a more brazen attempt to stop parents from selecting the school they think is best for their children,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. “The teachers union and their allies have sunk to a new low in their attempt to put the interests of the system ahead of the interests of parents. I hope the public will see this action for what it is: a blatant strong-arm tactic to threaten parents and non-public schools.”

We cannot understand how anyone truly concerned about the education of children would do something like this. In essence, Blackwell and the teacher’s unions is saying “if you don’t go along with us, we will sue you causing you to spend money on lawyers and court costs.”

That is the type of concern they have for quality education. Blackwell and the union are seeking to punish those schools who want to do what they teachers have failed at doing – educating the children of Louisiana.

This type of thing is thuggery. Nothing more, nothing less. Blackwell is threatening schools that are operating in a legal manner in order to get them to agree to his client’s position. That is all it is.

Blackwell and the union are hoping that some schools will opt out of the program because they can’t afford or don’t want to be drawn into a legal battle. (Some people might consider such actions extortion of some type, but that would be a little extreme.)

The exact opposite of schools dropping the program may occur. We hope that given the passage of the bill due to the wishes of the parent of the state of Louisiana there is a backlash against the union and Blackwell. That is the only way the union and people like Blackwell will ever understand that when you fail at something, people will look elsewhere for those who can actually do the job.

Parents and citizens will look to solutions rather than acquiesce to those who seek to keep their children locked in a perpetual system of education where teachers are more concerned with hiring lawyers than education.

Below is a copy of the letter sent by Blackwell and Associates on behalf of the Louisiana Association of Educators. The name of the school to which the letter was sent has been redacted.

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