The U.S. Department of Justice filed papers in a New Orleans federal district court Saturday to block implementation of Louisiana’s school voucher program, which allows disadvantaged students to attend private schools.
The agency claims that the Louisiana Scholarship Program will adversely affect the racial makeup of those districts currently under federal desegregation orders. As many as 34 school systems throughout the state could be affected, according to rhe (New Orleans) Times-Picayune.
The voucher program allows low-income students in public schools with poor track records to attend private schools at taxpayers’ expense. This year, 22 of the 34 systems under desegregation orders are sending students to private schools on vouchers.
The Justice Department wants to bar the transfer of those students unless the districts seek a court order from a federal judge.
The Times-Picayune reported:
The Justice Department’s primary argument is that letting students leave for vouchered private schools can disrupt the racial balance in public school systems that desegregation orders are meant to protect. Those orders almost always set rules for student transfers with the school system.
Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal blasted the Justice Department’s lawsuit.
“After generations of being denied a choice, parents finally can choose a school for their child, but now the federal government is stepping in to prevent parents from exercising this right,” he said. “Shame on them. Parents should have the ability to decide where to send their child to school.”
State Education Superintendent John White told The Times-Picayune that most of the students taking advantage of the voucher program are black, negating the Justice Department’s argument. He said he found it ironic that the federal government would take rules established to fight racism and use them to keep black students in failing schools.