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November 21 2015

A School Choice Victory in Louisiana

Charlotte Hays

Governor Jindal has left the presidential race, but his legacy as an education reformer received a boost last week.

A promoter of school choice, the Louisiana governor had to be delighted that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2 to 1 to overturn a lower court ruling that the Department of Justice had the right to perform a pre-clearance of Louisiana vouchers.

Appellate Judge Edith Jones, writing for the majority, said that the Justice Department review would be a "burdensome, costly, and endless” process that compelled the state to engage in “a vast and intrusive reporting regime," even if there was no finding of anything unconstitutional in the way the voucher system was conducted.

A piece in The Wall Street Journal notes:

The rebuke punctuates a sordid, two-year case in which the Obama Administration sought to deny poor, black kids better educational opportunities under the pretext of promoting integration. In August 2013 Justice sued to block Louisiana’s vouchers, which the Administration claimed appeared “to impede the desegregation progress” of public schools under federal desegregation orders dating to the 1960s and ’70s.

Only students who come from families below 250% of the poverty and attend schools with a C or lower grade are eligible for the vouchers. In 2013 black students received 85% of 6,800 vouchers awarded. But Justice complained that black voucher recipients might leave their failing public schools more white.

According to a study by Boston University political scientist Christine Rossell—who has analyzed desegregation plans for more than 25 years—Louisiana vouchers “had no negative effect on school desegregation in the 34 school districts under a desegregation court order.” Justice produced no evidence to the contrary.

Using a 1975 desegregation order, the Justice Department had demanded that Louisiana provide it with the racial statistic of the public school from which the child was coming, the voucher applicant's names and addresses and race, along with a history of what schools the child had attended, as long as the preference for where the voucher would be applied. Judge Jones called this a "fishing expedition."

As the Wall Street Journal says, what is so remarkable about this is that the Obama administration is willing to ensure that low-income kids can't escape failing public schools to maintain the support of the teacher unions.

Hillary Clinton, who previously supported charter schools, has now come out against them. She announced her change of heart after the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers endorsed her.  

 



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