November 16 2013
Vicki E. Alger
What do you do when students are stuck in bad schools? If you’re U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, you try to shut down a state program that gets them into better schools.
In 2008 Louisiana launched the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program. Under the program, low-income students attending failing or mediocre public schools are eligible for scholarships worth up to 90 percent of their local public school per-pupil funding. Currently this program helps about 8,000 low-income students (mostly Black) attend better private schools.
Just in time for the back-to-school season on August 22, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a petition arguing that the scholarship program violates decades-old desegregation orders in place at 34 Louisiana school districts.
A flurry of negative press left the DOJ sputtering about simply wanting more information about the program (see here, here, and here). Of course, that excuse doesn't explain why the program needs to be shut down. Nor does it explain why last month the DOJ submitted another filing attempting to keep Louisiana parents out of its lawsuit.
As the Cato Institute’s Jason Bedrick quipped, apparently “the Obama administration’s message to these students is: ‘If you don’t like your school, you can’t leave your school.’” Bedrick also highlights two important studies showing that the Louisiana scholarship program actually improves racial integration (here and here).
But apparently the Obama administration doesn’t want facts to get in the way of its political agenda, which is grounded in the notion that Washington politicians and special interest groups know best when it comes to educating other people’s children.