Federal judge gives Louisiana the go-ahead in DOJ’s suit against school vouchers
posted at 2:01 pm on April 11, 2014 by Erika Johnsen
In 2012, Louisiana passed a statewide voucher program that would allow families living below 250% of the poverty line and with children attending ailing and failing public schools to instead send their children to a school of their choice — and it didn’t take too long for the Obama administration, what with their pro-union and anti-school choice proclivities, to try to put a stop to it with a permanent injunction while claiming that the program was “impeding the desegregation process.” …Which seems weird, since the overwhelming majority of the program’s beneficiaries have been poor minority students, but don’t even think about accusing the Obama administration of having “taken a position” on the matter:
Attorney General Eric Holder denied that the Justice Department “took a position” on a Louisiana school choice program that administration officials tried to restrict by asking a federal judge to issue a permanent injunction against issuing vouchers to students in some school districts.
Holder took a shot at Jindal and Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., during a congressional hearing Friday when Harris said that a Justice Department division had taken the voucher program to court. …
“We were seeking to get from the state of Louisiana information about their voucher program, [we] never ever took the position that we were against vouchers,” Holder told Harris. “It’s a talking point that Gov. Jindal and others — I guess you — think makes good political fodder, but it’s totally inconsistent with the facts.”
Actually, what’s “inconsistent with the facts” is pretending that trying to deny poor families the choice to remove their children from crummy, underperforming public schools is somehow a good or righteous idea, and on Tuesday, a federal judge basically ruled against the DOJ’s attempt at an injunction — although the court did grant some of the administration’s requests in terms of requiring the state to provide the DOJ with its data:
Starting this fall, Louisiana must provide the agency with timely information about the racial background of participating students each year so the Justice Department can monitor the program’s effect on school segregation, a federal judge ruled Tuesday night. …
“We welcome the court’s order, as it rejects the state’s bid to resist providing even the most basic information about how Louisiana’s voucher program will affect school desegregation efforts,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. “This ruling ought to resolve, once and for all, the unnecessary dispute initiated by the state’s refusal to provide data.” …
Under the court order, the state must send a spreadsheet with extensive information on each voucher applicant, including name, address and race; the public school, if any, the child attended the previous year; and the private school he or she would like to attend with the voucher. If the state is planning to award the child a voucher, it must also provide the name of the private school he or she will attend.
The Justice Department may use the information in “federal school desegregation cases in Louisiana,” the judge ruled. That latitude could allow the DOJ to seek to challenge distribution of some vouchers if its lawyers determined that sending the students to private schools would disrupt federal efforts to keep the public schools integrated.
Holder has been perturbed with Jindal for daring to question the administration’s motives in seeking the information, although with this administration’s record, how could anyone not be suspicious of their motives? A.k.a, collecting this data to later make some trumped-up case against the program again? Politico describes this as the DOJ having “prevailed — at least in part,” but Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also said that the decision is a “win for children and parents” and that he’s satisfied that the ruling won’t obstruct the program, at least for now:
Today, U.S. District Court Judge Ivan Lemelle issued an order in the U.S. Department of Justice suit against the Louisiana School Choice Scholarship Program. The Judge’s order is a win for children and parents in Louisiana who deserve access to an opportunity for a better education. The order did not grant the request by President Obama’s Department of Justice for veto power over individual scholarship awards as the Justice Department had initially demanded.
Most importantly, the information sharing process ordered by the Judge should not impede the Scholarship Program. However, the state will remain vigilant to ensure that the information sharing process will not be used by the Department of Justice as a means to impede the Scholarship Program through future litigation.
Governor Jindal said, “Today is great day for school choice and access to an opportunity for a better education for all Louisianians. I am pleased that the court rejected President Obama’s Justice Department’s attempt to establish a review period where bureaucrats in Washington would be able to reject scholarship awards solely because the child is not the ‘right’ skin color.
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