By Mary C. Tillotson | Watchdog.org
The federal government can oversee a Louisiana school voucher program, but cannot hamper it, a federal judge ruled Friday.
The state and the U.S. Department of Justice have until late January to agree on a review process that allows the federal government to make sure the school voucher program does not impede desegregation efforts, but does not impede the voucher program.
“The Judge has indicated that he wants both parties to determine a process that does not allow the scholarship program to send state aid to segregated private schools,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a statement. “The state already ensures that the scholarship program does not provide state funds to segregated private schools.”
Jindal said he was pleased the judge “made clear he does not want to disrupt the scholarship program” but is not, overall, happy with the decision.
“We will draw a hard line against allowing the federal government to control the scholarship program and handpick schools for Louisiana’s children,” he said. “No parent should have to get the President’s permission – no matter which party that President is in — just to put their kid in the school of their choice.”
The DOJ this fall filed a motion in a decades-old desegregation lawsuit, Brumfield v. Dodd, asking the court to stop the voucher program, alleging that it impeded the desegregation process. The DOJ since amended its motion, saying it wanted to oversee the program to make sure it didn’t impede the process.
Multiple studies have shown that the voucher program has helped racially integrate schools, which the judge acknowledged.
“Frankly, if I’m Louisiana, I would not be happy with any federal oversight of a purely state program that doesn’t have any federal implications at all,” said Jon Riches, attorney for the Goldwater Institute, which filed an amicus brief in the case.
Goldwater is considering making an appeal, Riches said.
The institute had attempted to intervene in the case on behalf of parents whose children are attending private schools on vouchers. After the DOJ argued that parents will not be affected by the case — it was at that time claiming it had withdrawn its request to stop the program — the judge ruled against Goldwater’s intervention.
“We’re disappointed that the threshold issue of whether the (desegregation) orders apply was answered in the affirmative,” Riches said. “That was our position all along: the voucher program that was implemented 40 years after, that Brumfield never applied to it.
“We’ll see what kind of remedy the court fashions, but it’s our hope that the regulations are not so onerous that they’d deprive parents and their students of the opportunities they have under the voucher program.”
Contact Mary C. Tillotson at email@example.com.
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