The justices Thursday upheld a Baton Rouge district court ruling, stating that the legislation that created the state’s school voucher program was unconstitutional.

“After reviewing the record, the legislative instruments and the constitutional provisions at issue, we agree with the district court that once funds are dedicated to the state’s Minimum Foundation Program for public education, the constitution prohibits those funds from being expended on the tuition costs of nonpublic schools and nonpublic entities,” the justices found.

The Shreveport Times reports:

 ”I think it’s tragic, it’s unfortunate,” said Eric Lewis, state director of Black Alliance for Educational Options, after hearing about the ruling. “We will do everything in our power to see that the program is funded.”

BAEO is one of the main backers of expanding the voucher program statewide.

Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers which filed the initial suit challenging Act 2 of last year, said “It is regrettable that there is now some confusion about where those children will attend school. But that is the fault of the governor and his allies. Not only was the voucher program patently unconstitutional, but it placed children into schools without adequate oversight and with no assurance of quality instruction.”

Teacher unions have long opposed voucher programs, which typically shift money from public schools where the unions have leverage to private school systems where they do not.

UPDATE: Matt Frendewey, spokesman for the American Federation for Children, a pro-voucher group involved in the case, writes:

The Louisiana Supreme Court did not rule the voucher program unconstitutional, their ruling only affected the funding mechanism. The Court actually stated in both its opening and closing opinion that they’re explicitly not ruling on the constitutionality of the voucher system (ergo, the vouchers are still constitutional).

It might seem minor, but it is an important distinction. We’re confident that the Governor and Louisiana Legislature will find a legislative solution to the funding problem.