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Reviving a 1970s lawsuit, DOJ would keep black students in failing schools

By   /   September 23, 2013  /   No Comments

Part 2 of 94 in the series Educating America

By Mary C. Tillotson | Watchdog.org

At least 600 Louisiana school children, possibly 1,300 more, will lose the opportunity to leave failing public schools for better ones, if a motion by the U.S. Department of Justice is successful.

NO CASE: Richard Komer from the Institute for Justice says the DOJ's argument is weak.

NO CASE: Richard Komer from the Institute for Justice says the DOJ’s argument is weak.

Louisiana’s school voucher program, which gives private-school scholarships to low-income students attending schools graded C, D, or F, violates the state’s desegregation orders from the 1960s and 70s, the DOJ alleges.

More than 90 percent of voucher recipients are minorities, and more than 80 percent are assigned to D or F schools.

But the DOJ is trying to pull a fast one and hardly has a case, says Richard Komer, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, an Arlington, Va.-based libertarian public interest law firm.

Resurrecting ancient history

The lawsuit, Brumfield v. Dodd, dates from the 1970s, when a parent sued the state of Louisiana and six school districts over a program that had been around since the 1920s allowing public funds for textbooks and transportation to all Louisiana students, in public or private schools.

The desegregation orders prompted swarms of white families to pull their children from public schools and send them to all-white private schools. Some public schools lost several hundred white students in a single year, Komer said. The lawsuit blamed the book-and-bus program for encouraging “white flight” and thus impeding the desegregation process.

In 1975, the federal judge on the case ruled that no state assistance, including textbooks and transportation, could go to racially discriminatory private schools. The case saw some minor activity in 1977, but since then, nothing has happened, though the case was never closed.

Louisiana’s voucher program requires that participating private schools comply with the order and not discriminate against students based on race.

“There are schools in Louisiana that comply with this court order, and who from the time of the court order in 1975, have continued to receive textbooks and transportation for their private students, because they are in compliance with the court order,” Komer said. “The voucher program mandates that for a private school to receive any students’ vouchers from the state, they have to be in compliance with the case’s court order.”

The DOJ has not filed a new lawsuit, but has filed a motion in the old Brumfield case, claiming in at least 22 Louisiana parishes desegregation has yet to be achieved. The scholarship program, they claim, may hurt the process to further desegregate the schools.

Federal officials also claim the state must inspect the racial demographics before allowing students to use the vouchers. Students could leave public schools only if their leaving would shift the demographics away from segregation.

The 22 parishes are among the 34 still not complying with the desegregation orders – likely because districts still desegregating are eligible for federal money, said Clint Bolick, vice president of litigation at the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, which will represent some parents in the case.

“Even in the worst case scenario, the program would continue for a majority of the kids receiving scholarships,” Bolick said.

But it’s unrealistic to expect the state to complete all those inspections before the 2014-15 school year, and students in those parishes likely would not receive vouchers.

“For us, the bottom line is that is incredibly perverse. These kids are the intended beneficiaries of the desegregation decrees,” Bolick said.

Contact Mary C. Tillotson at mtillotson@watchdog.org

Part of 94 in the series Educating America
  1. Arizona mom won’t give up on special needs kids, no matter what state says
  2. Reviving a 1970s lawsuit, DOJ would keep black students in failing schools
  3. Relocating sexually abusive teachers would be more difficult under Pennsylvania bill
  4. DOJ backpedals on Louisiana voucher lawsuit
  5. Court says charter schools won’t pay for Atlanta’s pension debts
  6. Biggest education impact from shutdown? Furloughed bureaucrats
  7. Appeals court upholds Arizona school choice program
  8. Indiana’s voucher program expands; diversity a factor in one family’s choice of school
  9. ‘Vouchers don’t do much good for students’ claim is false
  10. NYC mayor’s race could affect school choice
  11. Vermont public school goes independent, raises ire from state bureaucracy
  12. Arizona education savings accounts aren’t vouchers, study says
  13. Legal institute fights Alabama union’s attempt to repeal school tax credit
  14. Experts: School choice improves education in public schools
  15. SC school-choice program helps special needs kids, could expand
  16. DOJ wants Louisiana parents out of voucher lawsuit
  17. U.S. House passes bill to prevent ‘passing the trash’
  18. ‘Non-traditional’ journalists barred from viewing tax-funded test results early
  19. New center hopes to help charter schools help kids with special needs
  20. Charter school advocate to Philadelphia schools: Listen to parents
  21. $45 million not enough for Philadelphia teachers’ union
  22. Study: Rhode Islanders support school choice
  23. Study: Choice would help failing Chicago schools
  24. Scholarships could lift SC school dedicated to real-life, hands-on learning
  25. Parents make good school choices, study says
  26. Divisive charter school reform bill headed toward vote in PA
  27. In Louisiana school voucher lawsuit, DOJ changes gears
  28. Opponents sue Washington to overturn charter school law
  29. School choice proponents’ challenge? Educating parents
  30. Judge: Federal oversight may not hamper school voucher program
  31. PA lawmakers push to amend tight teacher furlough policies
  32. College ready: A Milwaukee inner-city school success story
  33. Proposed economic furloughs could slay sacred cow of seniority in Pennsylvania schools
  34. What is Massachusetts doing right?
  35. Goldwater to appeal Louisiana school voucher decision
  36. Want to end poverty? Educate the kids
  37. Breakdown in Philly schools not only about the money
  38. North Carolina scholarship program on firm legal footing, attorney argues
  39. Philadelphia school district threatens charters
  40. Belief in student ability key to success at Milwaukee charter school
  41. Three things to know about Philadelphia’s school budget: Debt, pensions and safety
  42. Choosing to sue: Here’s a look at some 2013 lawsuits involving school choice
  43. Philly charter schools outperform district counterparts
  44. California students sue state over ineffective teachers
  45. Study: Public supports parent choice in education
  46. Under new management, Philly Renaissance Schools show growth
  47. New Orleans tops school choice index
  48. AZ to consider four school-choice expansion bills
  49. Florida family ‘blessed’ to be apart of scholarship program
  50. PA lawmakers put education at top of agenda in election year
  51. Louisiana: Feds ‘more interested in skin color than … education’
  52. Charter school for Philadelphia foster children will not be renewed
  53. Governor ties proposed PA education funding to targeted grants
  54. WA’s first charter school serves children, families of ‘extreme poverty’
  55. Vermont attempts to take independence from independent schools
  56. Philly stumbles on way to simplifying enrollment system
  57. Plan for Philly schools keeps charters in check
  58. Missouri ballot initiative would increase funding for public, private schools
  59. New York charter school focuses on family, community
  60. NC school vouchers on hold
  61. WI voucher bill would help special needs students denied open enrollment
  62. Philadelphia schools will end another year in red
  63. PA universities expect state, students to pick up tab on rising tuition
  64. Two ESA bills get House support in AZ
  65. Thousands rally to support New York charter schools
  66. California’s defense begins in Vergara trial
  67. Accountability or overregulation? Charter supporters split over Minnesota bill
  68. Bill would make Florida students eligible for scholarships
  69. PA considers empowering universities to authorize charter schools
  70. To test or not to test? Florida school choice proponents split
  71. Philly school district broke, but the pay is good
  72. Philadelphia charter school sues public school district
  73. Colorado Supreme Court to hear school voucher case
  74. Vermont to reconsider education funding formula
  75. Arizona Supreme Court allows school choice program to stand
  76. Massachusetts charter school bill revived
  77. Quality schools matter more than racial integration, black leaders say
  78. FL again takes up school-choice bill
  79. Choice Media’s videocast tackles host of education issues
  80. Ending teacher seniority rules beyond Philly requires legislative action
  81. New website helps Detroit parents choose schools
  82. Philly schools caught on funding merry-go-round
  83. Louisiana bill would coordinate school choice programs
  84. New D.C. charter school lottery eases but doesn’t eliminate waiting lists
  85. Federal bill attempts to help replicate high-quality state charter schools
  86. Philadelphia schools awaiting taxes from city, state
  87. ACLU alleges discrimination in 138 NJ districts
  88. MN anti-bullying bill could have unintended consequences
  89. Mississippi’s special needs bill to return next year
  90. Illinois considers three-year ban on virtual charter schools
  91. Violent Philly high school source of worry
  92. Auditors examining troubled Philadelphia school district
  93. Civil liberties organization sues to overturn anti-bullying law
  94. Legal conflict over teacher seniority in Philly heats up
  95. Academics, culture help mom choose private school

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Mary Tillotson