October 2013 Church & State | People & Events


Louisiana’s new voucher program is illegally giving money to discriminatory and segregated private schools, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) charged recently in a lawsuit.

In a suit filed August 22, the DOJ said that during the 2012-2013 school year, Louisiana distributed vouchers funded with taxpayer dollars to almost 600 public school students who live in or attend schools in districts that are under federal orders to desegregate.

In many cases, “the vouchers impeded the desegregation process,” asserted the DOJ. The lawsuit also said that for 2013-2014, the state gave out vouchers to students in 22 districts that are required to desegregate, and the voucher program may conflict with that requirement.

Furthermore, the legal action asserts, Louisiana “did not evaluate the impact the vouchers would have on the desegregation process in any of the school districts operating under a federal desegregation order.”

Blogger Lamar White Jr., a law student at Southern Methodist University, said he and voucher opponents Zack Kopplin and Ben Simpson reviewed records provided by the Louisiana Department of Education that highlighted the state’s failure to ensure desegregation.

The records indicated that multiple schools accepting voucher students disclosed discriminatory policies, such as the right to expel gay and lesbian students, and admitting that they charge more in tuition for students who are not members of the school’s sponsoring church, White said on his cenlamar.com blog.

Vouchers were first used in the 1950s in the South to prop up segregationist academies and get around racial integration in public schools.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was quick to rant against the U. S. v. Dodd lawsuit. In a statement, he said: “This is shameful. President [Barack] Obama and Attorney General [Eric] Holder are trying to keep kids trapped in failing public schools against the wishes of their parents.”

Jindal also attacked the lawsuit in an opinion column that was published by The Washington Post. The Post, which is relentlessly pro-voucher, had earlier run an editorial blasting the lawsuit.

Critics say Jindal’s ire is misplaced.

“Bobby Jindal can blame Barack Obama for his own failures until he turns blue in the face; it’s just a short-term sound bite that he hopes will distract from a long-term problem” said White on his blog. “But as much as he may try, Bobby Jindal can no longer get away with blaming his failures on the President.”