U.S. Justice Department sues Louisiana over private school voucher plan

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NEW ORLEANS – Attorney General Eric Holder is drawing stinging criticism for his recent decision to sue the state of Louisiana over its school voucher program, on the grounds it’s leading to less-diverse public schools.

holder1On Saturday, the U.S. Department of Justice “filed suit to block school vouchers for public schools students in school districts which remain under federal desegregation orders,” reports Fox8Live.com.

Holder’s Justice Department argues the 2012 voucher law – which gives private school scholarships to low-income students from failing or subpar schools – is jeopardizing the racial integration of some historically segregated schools.

In other words, Holder is suing to block the voucher law because “students who were the small minority in the school they were attending – blacks in primarily white schools and whites in primarily black schools – sought and received vouchers to leave the schools and attend more homogeneous schools instead, reversing desegregation progress,” writes ThinkProgress.org.

If New Orleans federal Judge Ivan Lemelle agrees with Holder’s assessment, the state would be barred, beginning in the 2014-15 school year, from giving vouchers to students in 34 affected school districts, unless a federal judge signs off on it, reports NOLA.com.

Getting a judicial waiver would require a significant amount of time, effort and evidence from the state, notes NOLA.com.

That probably sounds good to radical teacher union leaders who will use any method to preserve public schools are their private domain – even methods that harm a child’s right to a quality education.

Most clear-thinking individuals, however, say the DOJ lawsuit doesn’t make any sense.

State Education Superintendent John White told NOLA.com that nearly all voucher recipients are black, and noted the irony in Holder’s attempt to fight racism by keeping minority students trapped in dysfunctional schools.

White added that the state is legally prohibited from giving vouchers for use in schools that aren’t desegregated.

Eric Lewis, state director for Louisiana’s Black Alliance for Educational Options, called the lawsuit “preposterous.”

“(The voucher law) gave parents the ability to actually choose where they want to send their kids,” Lewis told Fox8Live.com. “And so this motion by the Department of Justice we think is wrong-sided and (we) would implore them to reconsider taking this action.”

A Wall Street Journal editorial was even more pointed in its criticism:

“ … The evidence from around the country is that vouchers enhance racial integration. Public school attendance is mainly determined by geography, so segregated neighborhoods produce segregated schools. Vouchers help poor minorities escape those boundaries to attend schools they otherwise couldn’t. … Today’s civil-rights outrage is the millions of poor kids who can’t escape failing schools whatever their racial makeup.”

The WSJ editorial offered what’s likely the real motivation behind Holder’s head-scratching legal action.

“Our guess – confirmed by sources in Louisiana – is that this lawsuit isn’t really about integration. It’s about helping the teachers union repeal the voucher law by any legal means, and the segregation gambit is the last one available.”

No wonder Gov. Bobby Jindal called the DOJ lawsuit “shameful.”

A court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 19, NOLA.com reports.

By Ben Velderman at EAGnews.org

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