Politics

Justice Dept. blocks school choice in Louisiana

Justice Dept. blocks school choice in Louisiana

The proper response to any liberal who claims to be “pro-choice” is to laugh at them.  They’re not in favor of people “choosing” anything, especially when those choices threaten the Left’s power structure. We might be allowed some modest latitude within a narrow range of options the State has prepared for us… but true, unbounded choice and its consequences are not permitted.  Liberals don’t think the Little People can be trusted with that kind of power.  Who knows what they might do with it?

The Wall Street Journal finds it bitterly ironic that Attorney General Eric Holder is nailing the doors of failing public schools in Louisiana shut, trapping the kids inside, on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech:

Late last week, Justice asked a federal court to stop 34 school districts in the Pelican State from handing out private-school vouchers so kids can escape failing public schools. Mr. Holder’s lawyers claim the voucher program appears “to impede the desegregation progress” required under federal law. Justice provides little evidence to support this claim, but there couldn’t be a clearer expression of how the civil-rights establishment is locked in a 1950s time warp.

Passed in 2012, Louisiana’s state-wide program guarantees a voucher to students from families with incomes below 250% of poverty and who attend schools graded C or below. The point is to let kids escape the segregation of failed schools, and about 90% of the beneficiaries are black.

Sounds like a terrific program.  What’s the problem?

But Justice is more worried about the complexion of the schools’ student body than their manifest failure to educate. During the 2012-13 school year, about 10% of voucher recipients came from 22 districts that remain under desegregation orders from 50 or so years ago.

For example, says the complaint, in several of those 22 districts “the voucher recipients were in the racial minority at the public school they attended before receiving the voucher.” In other words, Justice is claiming that the voucher program may be illegal because minority kids made their failing public schools more white by leaving those schools to go to better private schools.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune supplies the story of Tangipahoa Parish, where the loss of five white students to voucher schools supposedly “reinforced the racial identity of the school as a black school.”

Great.  We’re on the last leg of the “civil rights” thrill ride, where strange colors begin swirling around the boat, disturbing images are glimpsed from the corner of the eye, and Willy Wonka spouts nonsense in a relentless monotone.

The Journal points out that evidence from across the nation suggests that voucher programs enhance racial integration: “Public school attendance is mainly determined by geography, so segregated neighborhoods produce segregated schools. Vouchers help poor minorities escape those boundaries to attend schools they otherwise couldn’t. Seven of eight studies that have examined vouchers in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., found that private schools that recipients attend are more diverse than public schools.”

But that doesn’t matter when the reality of 2013 slams into a barrier of calcified ideology erected in the 1960s, buttressed by the demands of an overwhelmingly powerful special interest, the teachers’ unions.  If the only club available to beat Louisiana’s school choice law is a dusty old whiffle bat labeled “DESEGREGATION,” then so be it.

This is old hat for the Obama Administration, which began with freshly-inaugurated President Obama shutting down a popular school choice program in Washington, D.C.  And it’s par for the course when the Attorney General is an entirely political creature, who finds the mundane business of enforcing plain old sensible laws beneath him.

Republican Governor Bobby Jindal – who already saved the voucher program once by finding $40 million in funding from other sources, after the state Supreme Court ruled that public-school money could not be used – was angered by the Justice Department’s action.  “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,” Jindal said.

The Times-Picayune looks at the odds of beating the Justice Department lawsuit:

The case has been assigned to Judge Ivan Lemelle. He ruled in November that elements of Jindal’s 2012 education overhaul were unconstitutional,  because paying to implement the voucher program would hurt Tangipahoa Parish’s ability to pay for the programs it uses to comply with its federal desegregation order. The state’s appeal in that case is pending.

So federal decree can lock out funding for the program they claim is an offense against desegregation, by forcing Louisiana to spend the money on desegregation programs Washington prefers, and which probably won’t be getting cheaper any time soon.  What a racket.

What’s more important to children of every racial background than a good education?  But we’re stuck with the same lousy, reform-proof system we’ve had for decades, because the status quo is inviolate.  The same people who think it should be inviolate also tell us that we need looser immigration policies, to bring in more qualified candidates for the jobs American public school graduates can’t do any more.  And they’re turning college degrees into an expensive obligation that has effectively replaced the now-worthless high school diploma.  Breaking out of that system should be the true desegregation goal, not shutting the doors on black students and telling them to stay put, because it’s still 1965 out there.

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