Earlier this year, the Department of Justice sued the state of Louisiana and thus began an egregiously counterproductive crusade against the state’s school-voucher program, which was itself designed to provide alternate opportunities to low- and middle-income families whose children would otherwise be stuck in failing public schools. The Obama administration claimed that the program was somehow walking back the progress of a federal desegregation order of yore (1975, to be exact) — which seemed strange, because the overwhelming majority of the program’s beneficiaries have in fact been minorities. Even the Washington Post’s editors came out swinging against the DOJ’s embarrassment of a lawsuit, and pointed out the situation smacks much more of a reinforcement of the Obama administration’s pro-union, anti-school choice leanings than a legitimate effort to put a stop to an ostensibly discriminatory voucher program.
On Friday, however, a ruling in a U.S. district court in Louisiana said that Eric Holder’s department was “abandoning its previous request” to seek a permanent injunction against the scholarship program, which seemed like pretty good news at first — until it became clear that the DOJ is merely switching up their tactics and will instead be seeking to require Louisiana to undergo a lengthy review process that submits information on every voucher application to the feds for approval before it can be awarded to the student. The Weekly Standard reports on the ruling and the DOJ’s renewed approach:
On Friday, Judge Ivan Lemelle of the U.S. district court of the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled the parents could not intervene in the case because the feds are “no longer seeking injunctive relief at this time.” Lemelle explained that in the intervening months since the Justice Department filed suit, it had made clear both in a supplemental filing and in its opposition to the parent group’s motion to intervene that it was not seeking in its suit to end the voucher program or take away vouchers from students.
Lemelle continued: “The Court reads these two statements as the United States abandoning its previous request that the Court ‘permanently enjoin the State from issuing any future voucher awards to students unless and until it obtains authorization from the federal court overseeing the applicable desegregation case.'”
Lemelle will hold an oral hearing on Friday, November 22, during which Justice will make its case for the federal review process of the voucher program.
Louisiana governor and school-choice champion Bobby Jindal applauded the DOJ’s dropped injunction in his statement, but made it clear that he’s perfectly well aware of what the Justice Department is really trying to do here, emphasis mine:
Governor Jindal said, “We are pleased that the Obama Administration has given up its attempt to end the Louisiana Scholarship Program with this absurd lawsuit. It is great the Department of Justice has realized, at least for the time being, it has no authority to end equal opportunity of education for Louisiana children.
“However, we will continue to fight, at every step, the Department of Justice’s new Washington strategy to red tape and regulate the program to death.
“The Department of Justice’s new position is that it wants bureaucrats in Washington to have the authority to decide where Louisiana children get an education.
“The centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s ‘process’ is a requirement that the state may not tell parents, for 45 days, that their child has been awarded a scholarship while the department decides whether to object to the scholarship award. The obvious purpose of this gag order would be to prevent parents from learning that the Department of Justice might try to take their child’s scholarship away if it decides that the child is the wrong race.
So, in a nutshell, the Obama administration is ditching their attempt to put a permanent stop to the program and is instead looking to require Louisiana to submit to a federal review process before handing out its scholarships. How very magnanimous of them.