Families to Holder’s DOJ: Hands off our education!

| November 9 2013

LOUISIANA FAMILIES TO FEDERAL COURT: END TO VOUCHER PROGRAM WOULD TURN BACK CLOCK ON EDUCATION PROGRESS

Desegregation orders were meant as a mechanism to expand educational options for minority children, not as a tool to keep them out, Louisiana families represented by the Goldwater Institute told a federal court in a brief filed yesterday.

The Institute is representing four Louisiana families, as well as the Louisiana Black Alliance for Education Options, a network of thousands of families across the state. The families are asking the court to dismiss recent attempts by the federal government to end a popular school voucher program in the state. The Justice Department contends that the school voucher program, which is overwhelmingly being used by minority families, “impedes desegregation” and must be approved by one or more courts that are supervising desegregation orders.

According to Clint Bolick, lead attorney for the families and noted defender of school choice programs who served in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the notion that the voucher scholarship program violates desegregation orders is off base.

“The Scholarship Program cannot be shoe-horned into a lawsuit and set of remedies that were triggered by, justified by, and limited to a very different program and set of circumstances,” wrote Bolick in a response filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

The Institute argues that it would be the termination of this program—not its continuation—that would have dangerous implications for equal educational opportunities efforts in Louisiana, which was recently held up as one of the three best states for narrowing the race achievement gap among school children, based on national education assessments.

“This program carries forward the spirit and ethos of the civil rights movement,” said Bolick. “Shutting it down would set the clock back by forcing the most disadvantaged children back into failing schools.”

More than 90 percent of the children benefitting from vouchers are minorities. The outcome of this legal battle in Louisiana has implications for school choice programs throughout the country. Standing desegregation orders remain in effect in over 200 school districts nationally, meaning that a DOJ victory in this case could similarly jeopardize school choice programs across the country.

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