The U.S. Justice Department is suing Louisiana in New Orleans federal court
to block 2014-15 vouchers for students in public school systems that
are under federal desegregation orders. The first year of private school
vouchers "impeded the desegregation process," the federal government
Thirty-four school systems could be affected, including
those of Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany
parishes. Under the lawsuit, the state
would be barred from assigning students in those systems to private
schools unless a federal judge agreed to it. A court hearing is tentatively set for Sept. 19.
The statewide voucher program,
officially called the Louisiana Scholarship Program, lets low-income
students in public schools graded C, D or F attend private schools at
taxpayer expense. This year, 22 of the 34 systems under desegregation orders are sending some students to private schools on vouchers.
Last year, at least 570 students were affected; the program has expanded since then. The
federal petition would require the state to analyze this year's
vouchers to see how they affected school desegregation. (Read the petition.)
Justice Department's primary argument is that letting students leave
for vouchered private schools can disrupt the racial balance in public
school systems that desegregation orders are meant to protect. Those
orders almost always set rules for student transfers with the school
Federal analysis found that last year's Louisiana vouchers
increased racial imbalance in 34 historically segregated public schools
in 13 systems. The Justice Department goes so far as to charge that in
some of those schools, "the loss of students through the voucher program
reversed much of the progress made toward integration."
Tangipahoa Parish, for instance, Independence Elementary School lost
five white students to voucher schools, the petition states. The
consequent change in the percent of enrolled white students
"reinforc(ed) the racial identity of the school as a black school."
the federal petition would let courts approve vouchers in those school
systems next year, Brian Blackwell, attorney for the Louisiana
Association of Educators, said it likely would take a lot of time,
effort and evidence to persuade the judges.
Superintendent John White took issue with the suit's primary argument
and its characterization of the program. Almost all the students using
vouchers are black, he said. Given that framework, "it's a little
ridiculous" to argue that students' departure to voucher schools makes
their home school systems less white, he said. He also thought it ironic
that rules set up to combat racism were being called on to keep black
students in failing schools.
read more here: http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2013/08/us_government_files_to_block_s.html