A stunning editorial in the Statesman, a Louisiana publication, raises an important question about Governor Jindal’s voucher program: Why do conservatives remind everyone about the importance of adhering faithfully to the literal meaning of the state constitution except when they choose not to?

The Jindal voucher plan is funded by the Minimum Foundation Funding dedicated specifically in the state constitution to “public elementary and secondary schools.” Private and religious schools do not fit that definition. There is no loophole. They are not public.

A state judge (a Republican, by the way) struck down the funding for vouchers a few weeks ago, declaring that it violated the plain language of the state constitution.

But, say Jindal’s defenders, “it’s for the children.” Who cares about the constitution when the children “need” to attend a private or religious school using money that is taken away from public schools? Why be so picky about the literal meaning of the words?

One conservative quoted here says that since the state is using the same public funding for charter schools, which are not really public schools, why not bend the constitution a bit more to fit those private and religious schools in too?

A good question, and an argument that could be used to argue (in his words) that charter schools are also private and should not take money away from the minimum budget dedicated to public schools.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote many years ago that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” but the very least conservatives could do is be consistent with their fundamental belief that the constitution means what it says. In the case of the Louisiana constitution, there is no wiggle room, no room for ambiguity.