The public schools enroll 711,000 students: 47% White, 44% African American, and 5% Latino, with 65% living in poverty, and 2% learning English. The State spends $10,539 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
“The legislature shall provide for the education of the people of the state and shall establish and maintain a public educational system.” La. Const., art. VIII §1.
“The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education…shall annually develop and adopt a formula which shall be used to determine the cost of a minimum foundation program of education in all public elementary and secondary schools as well as to equitably allocate the funds to parish and city school systems. … The legislature shall annually appropriate funds sufficient to fully fund the current cost to the state of such a program as determined by applying the [legislatively] approved formula in order to insure a minimum foundation of education in all public elementary and secondary schools. The funds appropriated shall be equitably allocated to parish and city school systems according to the formula as adopted by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or its successor, and approved by the legislature prior to making the appropriation.” La. Const., art. VIII §13.
In 1988, in Louisiana Association of Educators v. Edward, the Louisiana Supreme Court held that the Legislature has the exclusive authority to determine how much money would be appropriated for the public education system and that the school funding formula, developed by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, provides for the equitable distribution of the money the Legislature chooses to appropriate.
In 1998, in Charlet v. State, a State Appellate Court found that the State’s system of school funding did not violate the equal protection or the education article of the constitution. The Court concluded that the constitution did not require adequate education funding; it only required that the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education develop and adopt a formula.
In 2005, in Jones v. State Board of Elementary and Secondary Educ., a State Appellate Court again found the funding system to be constitutional despite plaintiffs’ argument that it was deficient because it failed to provide any capital funding for school facilities.
In Berry v. Pastorek in 2011, the U.S. District Court denied the State defendants’ motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs had claimed that as a result of education “reform” in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, thousands of students with disabilities were not receiving an education, in violation of the federal Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), Rehabilitation Act, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The parties negotiated a Consent Judgment, which the Court approved in 2015. Implementation is ongoing.
In 2014, in Louisiana Federation of Teachers v. State, the Louisiana Supreme Court held that the funding mechanism for a State school voucher program violated the constitution by diverting public school funds to nonpublic schools.