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 says.
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.
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.”
In 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.”
… State Education 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. [Emphasis mine. — RD] 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 the whole thing. It is more important to our black president and to our black Attorney General that black children remain stuck in failing schools if leaving them would undermine an abstraction called “integration,” which renders these actual children ciphers on a leveller’s computer screen. They would rather ruin these kids’ chance at a decent education than violate liberal dogma. Tragic.
Ken Campbell, a black man who leads a group opposed to what the Justice Department is doing, talks common sense here:
Today, Campbell said, educational excellence is more important for racial progress than equity in a given school. “We can’t ignore the kind of history of efforts to stop or block integration in schools in the South in the ’60s and ’70s,” he said. But he added: “I think in 2013 we have to have a very different viewpoint in some regards.
“In the name of racial harmony or racial integration, we’re going to assign kids to failing schools? These aren’t easy issues.”
The Black Alliance for Educational Options has been the loudest institutional voice in support of the Louisiana Scholarship Program, which lets low-income children in C-, D- and F-graded schools attend participating private schools at taxpayer expense. The group is holding a news conference Tuesday morning in Amite to urge the Justice Department to drop the lawsuit.
But Campbell points out that in many public school systems, real racial balance is impossible because white families have moved away or put their children in private school.
He said it’s unjust to put up roadblocks to vouchers. Doing so, he said, essentially tells the state it must make poor black children stay in schools that rich children can leave. After all, if they had the money, those families could choose private school and disrupt integration on their own.
Nor did Campbell, who lives in Ascension Parish, see a problem with some Louisiana voucher schools being 100 percent black. The real question, he said, is what society’s goals should be and how it gets there. “I don’t think our ultimate end is just to have racially integrated schools,” he said. “I think our ultimate aim is to have quality schools.”
Come now, Mr. Campbell, who cares how good or bad the schools are, as long as the numbers fit the formula?