WASHINGTON, D.C. – Is the federal government attempting to kill state run private school voucher programs?
Officials from the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Department of Education continue to pursue efforts to scrutinize popular school voucher programs in Louisiana, Wisconsin and other states where the non-government school options are thriving, the National Review reports.
“State officials and education experts wonder if something more is on the agenda besides simple law enforcement, as both the DOJ and the Education Department have begun scrutinizing states (often led by Republican governors) implementing bold education reforms,” the news site reports.
Robert Enlow, president of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, believes the feds “are trying to go after, it seems, the states with the largest potential marketplaces for private schools.”
That’s certainly how it appears.
Shortly after Louisiana lawmakers last year approved a massive expansion of a successful voucher program in New Orleans, state education officials began receiving letters from the Department of Justice requesting information about the vouchers. Eventually, DOJ officials demanded Louisiana gain federal court approval for every child that receives a voucher, which now includes thousands of students, citing a desegregation court order dating back to 1975.
On August 22, the feds filed a lawsuit in an attempt to force the state to seek federal approval for each student in the program, the National Review reports.
“The lawsuit, which has come under heavy criticism since it was filed, rests on a central irony: It assails on the basis of racial discrimination a program that helps young black students (who are roughly 90 percent of the voucher recipients) escape failing schools,” the news site reports.
In Wisconsin, home to the nation’s oldest voucher program, the Department of Justice wants the state department of public instruction to ensure religious schools participating in the Milwaukee and Racine voucher programs fully comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“I think the proper interpretation of it was a shot across the bow against the voucher program,” education expert Josh Dunn told the National Review.
An unnamed state education official told the news site federal auditors are also conducting surprise visits to states with voucher programs.
“Every day now, somebody from the Department of Education calls, b****es at you about some policy this, some policy that,” the source said. “No doubt about it that’s coming from the liberal establishment and mainly from the unions.”
The National Review reports the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division – headed by Anurima Bhargava, a former NAACP attorney – is at the center of the debacle.
“Bhargava, a Harvard College graduate, is a polished advocate, couching her views in innocent-sounding language,” the news site reports.
“’We are facing a severe educational crisis, and it’s not time to be taking tools off the table,” she told NPR, defending a program in Louisville, Ky., that sent white students to a failing school an hour away to maintain percentages of black students in a given school,” according to the National Review.
Others believe President Obama, who vigorously fought to kill the Washington D.C. voucher program, could also be behind the federal movement against state voucher programs.
“President Obama has a long-held and open aversion to school vouchers,” Michael McShane, author of President Obama and Education Reform: The Personal and the Political, told the news site.
By Victor Skinner at EAGnews.org