The judicial assault by President Obama’s Justice Department on Louisiana’s school voucher initiative makes me shake with anger and sick with sadness at the Administration’s absurd contention that the program violates decades-old desegregation plans.
As Clint Bolick writes in his Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday, “The statewide program provides tuition vouchers to children from families with incomes below 250% of the poverty line whose children otherwise would attend public schools that the state has graded C, D or F. This year, roughly 8,000 children are using vouchers to attend private schools. Among those, 91% are minority and 86% would have attended public schools with D or F grades.”
Ninety-one percent are minority — that statistic bears repeating because by definition, the federal desegregation programs of the ’70s and ’80s were expressly designed to integrate minorities and whites in public schools. What possible difference could it make if the Louisiana program — or any other state’s program for that matter — accomplishes the same goal utilizing private, parochial, or charter schools?
Teachers unions and liberal lawmakers would say the answer is rooted in money. If public money leaves a public school, then teachers will have fewer resources and the schools will surely fail. Um, hello? The schools were already failing! That’s the very reason the voucher program was created.
Justice Department regulators say the answer is the resulting disproportionate ratio in those public schools as defined in the various desegregation decrees. What a bunch of malarkey.
The real answer is politics. Justice’s move isn’t based on any education goal or principle; instead the Department’s liberal lawyers are attempting to inject race into Louisiana’s program for the express purpose of scoring a political victory over a Republican governor who garnered bipartisan legislative support to take on the failing public school morass and provide opportunity for all of Louisiana’s children, regardless of their race or socio-economic status.
Let’s face it: Louisiana’s school-age children need any and all options available, given the deplorable condition of the state’s public education system. In 2012, 464 schools received a D or F grade by the Louisiana Department of Education. The children in those schools deserve the chance to attend better programs.
Ironically, as Mr. Bolick points out, desegregation and school choice should have the same goal. “Properly understood, desegregation and school choice share a common aim: educational opportunity. In its landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court made that paramount goal clear, recognizing ‘it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education.’”
Despite these words of wisdom from the high court, the verdict is clear — the liberals prefer racial ratios over educational opportunity for the very children they purport to champion.
Campbell Kaufman is a Baton Rouge native and Washington DC consultant who co-founded Cornerstone Government Affairs in 2002. He works in both cities and comments on business and politics unique to the Beltway and the Bayou State. You can read more of his missives at www.dcbrownpelican.net or follow him on Twitter @dcbrownpelican.