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Parental school choice spurs surprising reactions from advocates of the poor

by John Kirtley
August 26, 2013

As a white person from Iowa, I am always hesitant to write about the racial aspects of ed reform and parental school choice. I feel it is always better to have others with more credibility speak of it. But this weekend I saw two things that compelled me to write.

On Saturday, I read that the U.S. Justice Department is suing the state of Louisiana to block vouchers for students in public school districts that are under old federal desegregation orders. 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 school systems under desegregation orders are sending some students to private schools on vouchers.

The Justice Department’s primary argument is that letting students leave for private schools can disrupt the racial balance in public school systems that desegregation orders are meant to protect. Sounds like a good idea, right?

But here’s the thing: according to the Louisiana Department of Education, 86 percent of the children on the program are black. Only 9 percent are white.

If roughly 90 percent of the kids on the program are black, I don’t really understand how them moving to private schools that would better serve them would worsen segregation in the public schools. Are they leaving schools that are mostly white? If so, should they be forced to stay there even though they aren’t being well served? How would you explain that to their parents?

On the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s great speech, a black attorney general working for a black president filed a lawsuit to halt a program that is helping low-income black families in Louisiana choose a better school for their

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Jeanne Allen Condemns DOJ Action Against Louisiana Vouchers

CER Statement
Washington, DC
August 25, 2013

Jeanne Allen, founder and president, The Center for Education Reform, today issued the following statement condemning the U.S. Department of Justice for its unprecedented Saturday motion seeking to prevent Louisiana from offering school vouchers to children in certain areas of the Bayou State, beginning in the 2014-2015 school year:

“The fact that Attorney General Eric Holder chose to file this motion on a day of festivities commemorating the March on Washington can only demonstrate one of two things. It either shows that he has a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of vouchers in creating education opportunities for children, or that he has a corrosive cynicism about the power of educational choice to improve educational performance and to meet parent demands for better outcomes.

Perhaps Mr. Holder will explain his actions in coming days, but for me one thing is clear: education is the civil rights issue of our day and equality should guide the manner in which we educate children, not their zip code. School choice programs ignore the artificial boundaries set by politicians and work for the good of all children. The resulting school options have been embraced by parents, not just because they work, but because they are the right thing to do.”

Others who have condemned DOJ’s unprecedented action:

Louisiana Federation for Children:

Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana:

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