Eric Holder Fights School Choice in Louisiana
A Footnote to the Memory of Martin Luther King
It was a moving tribute to the memory of one of the most influential Americans of the last century – almost a week of celebration of the day 50 years ago when Martin Luther King challenged the nation to end segregation through the rule of law.
The highlight came at the exact time a half century ago when King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. With President Obama standing by, citizens rang a huge bell to mark the moment. It was a tribute to King’s plea for equality and opportunity for all.
While a vast array of speakers, including the President, echoed King’s message, the United States government was in U.S. District Court in New Orleans seeking an end to the distribution of vouchers to students seeking an escape from substandard public schools.
The excuse – Louisiana has 70 school districts with 34 still under segregation court orders. Some of the orders date back nearly a half century.
The rationale – Issuing vouchers to students would upset the racial balance in some schools. No matter if the students were black or white.
The Justice Department said Louisiana had given vouchers this school year to students in at least 22 districts remaining under desegregation orders, the Associated Press reported. The department is asking the court to permanently block the state from awarding vouchers in districts that are under desegregation orders, unless those districts seek court approval.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal called the department’s action “shameful” and said Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are trying “to keep kids trapped in failing public schools” against the wishes of their parents, the AP reported.
“The Obama administration thinks parents should have to seek their approval any time parents want to send their children to a school of their choice,” Jindal said. “After generations of being denied a choice, parents finally can choose a school for their child, but now the federal government is stepping in to prevent parents from exercising this right. Shame on them. Parents should have the ability to decide where to send their child to school.”
Louisiana lawmakers approved a voucher program in 2008 for low-income New Orleans students who were in failing schools. The Louisiana Scholarship Program was later expanded statewide. It allows children in school districts graded C, D, or F to receive public money to attend private schools.
All big government liberals despise school voucher programs. They fear the breakup of the public school monopoly and the wrath of the teachers unions. The students always come last.
We can only wonder what Martin Luther King would think of the first African-American president’s efforts to deny opportunity to black students and their families. Chances are it was not what he had in mind when he articulated his dream of a colorblind America.