Partial-Victory in Louisiana: Department of Justice Drops Lawsuit Targeting School Voucher Program

Posted: Nov 19, 2013 3:00 PM

Let’s bring you up to speed. The DOJ recently sued the state of Louisiana ostensibly because its “controversial” school voucher program – which allowed poor minority students in failing schools to attend private schools free of charge – “frustrates and impedes the desegregation process.” In fact nothing could be further from the truth. Not only do studies show that the voucher program provides better opportunities for deserving young children (roughly 90 percent of scholarship recipients are minorities, by the way), but the program actually “improves racial diversity” in both public and private schools. Imagine that. So while the DOJ has dropped its lawsuit for now, that victory may only be short-lived. It seems the federal government will never let this program stand on its own two feet.

The TWS reports:

The Obama administration's Justice Department has dropped a lawsuit aiming to stop a school voucher program in the state of Louisiana. A ruling Friday by a United States district court judge revealed that the federal government has "abandoned" its pursuit of an injunction against the Louisiana Scholarship Program, a state-funded voucher program designed to give students in failing public schools the opportunity to attend better performing public or private schools.

"We are pleased that the Obama Administration has given up its attempt to end the Louisiana Scholarship Program with this absurd lawsuit," said Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, in a statement. "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."

But the legal battle over school vouchers in Louisiana isn't over. The Justice Department is still requesting the court allow a federal review process of the program.

Earlier this year the Justice Department had sought the injunction against the program because, its petition argued, moving children out of certain school districts in Louisiana may have been in violation of a standing federal desegregation court order from 1975. According to that existing injunction, the state could not send public money to private schools in those school districts "in ways that further or support discrimination or segregation."

Still, this is good news for the time being. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus released the following statement:

“This is a victory for the thousands of families who have benefited from school choice in Louisiana, and it is a victory for an education reform movement that empowers parents and students, not special interests and bureaucrats. This lawsuit was an attack on families wanting to give their children the best education possible. I join with those families in celebrating the end of this unconscionable lawsuit, and President Obama should be ashamed of the DOJ’s attempt to force kids back into failing schools.” ...

“Sadly, we can expect Democrats’ attacks on school choice to continue, whether in the form of lawsuits or intrusive federal regulation. School choice is about ensuring fairness and equal opportunity, so when the federal government tries to rob children of a bright future, Republicans will always stand on the side of families and students,” Priebus continued.

House Speaker John Boehner also weighed in:

“I’m pleased the Obama administration has decided to change course in its efforts to shut down this critical program, which expands education opportunities for Louisiana families and students. I have often said that a child’s luck in the lottery of life should never determine the quality of education he or she receives, or stand in the way of his or her pursuit of the American Dream. Instead of trying to shut down expanded education opportunities, we should be working together to give more low-income children new hope that they can receive a high-quality education and achieve the American Dream.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also released a statement:

"It's encouraging that the Obama Administration has ended its current attack on school choice in Louisiana. This is a huge victory for so many families and students who the Department of Justice tried to deny the best possible education. But the fight isn't over. President Obama still believes Washington knows better than Louisiana parents. The Justice Department is still requesting the court allow a federal review process of the program, and that’s unacceptable.

"We must continue to provide all parents with more choice so every boy and girl, regardless of their income or background, has a chance to succeed. Earlier this month, I saw firsthand what this means for at-risk children at the Good Shepherd School in New Orleans. We will continue to fight for kids like Brian and Niyla who are thriving thanks to the Louisiana Scholarship Program. We will continue to fight until education opportunity and school choice is a reality for every student in America."

We’ll see where this fight ends up as the DOJ finds more "legally sound" methods to keep poor kids in failing schools. There can be no doubt they’re on the wrong side of history here. Unfortunately, it might take years before Jindal et al. are finally vindicated.

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